Behavioral Therapy Improves Anxiety Symptoms in Elderly

Cognitive behavior therapy superior to enhanced usual care
By A. Agrawal, PhD
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is better than enhanced usual care in improving symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in older patients in primary care, according to a report in the April 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Melinda A. Stanley, Ph.D., from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and colleagues randomly assigned 134 adults (mean age 66.9 years) with generalized anxiety disorder to CBT or enhanced usual care. CBT consisted of interventions including education, motivational interviewing, training in relaxation and problem-solving, cognitive therapy and sleep management, while enhanced usual care consisted of telephone calls to ensure patient safety and provide support.

The researchers found that CBT was superior in improving worry severity, depressive symptoms and general mental health in the short term (up to three months post-treatment), which was maintained long term (three to 15 months post-treatment). However, both treatments were similar in terms of generalized anxiety disorder severity. Based on worry severity, response rates at three months were better for the CBT group than for the enhanced usual care group (40 versus 21.9 percent), the report indicates.

"This study is the first to suggest that CBT can be useful for managing worry and associated symptoms among older patients in primary care," Stanley and colleagues conclude. "Patients receiving CBT had greater improvements in worry severity, depressive symptoms and general mental health than those receiving enhanced usual care."

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