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Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or talk therapy helps older adults deal with anxiety disorders better than other approaches to mental health but not as well as it does when the patient is younger.
”Cognitive behavioral therapy is the mainstay for treating anxiety disorders in younger adults. Its’ lower effect in older adults is this study is concerning,” said Dr. Eric Lenze, a professor at Washington University School of Medicine who commented on the study.
The anxiety disorders which were examined for this study were panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress and generalized anxiety disorder, the ones most common in adults over the age of f55. The researchers revealed that three to 14 older adults out of 100 appear to have some kind of anxiety disorder.
“The prevailing assumption tends to be that what works with working-age people will work with older people, but this might not actually be the case,” said Rebecca Gould, the lead author of the study. Hear team compared cognitive behavioral therapy to other treatments, like medications or group therapy. There was another group who received no treatment at all. Compared to doing nothing, talk therapy had a moderate effect on helping people’s anxiety. Compared to medication and/or group therapy, the cognitive behavioral therapy relieved symptoms only slightly.
“What this might mean clinically is that the client in the CBT condition might be a little less severely or moderately anxious relative to the client in the active control condition,” Gould explained.
Since CBT goes after the source of the problem through discussion, that may explain why it works slightly better than drugs. Gould cannot explain why CBT seems to work better on younger people. It may be that it takes longer to have a significant effect, at least longer than the parameters of this study. Still, CBT is a viable alternative and considering the detrimental effects of depression on the elderly, it is the best option currently available.
Source: Reuters, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
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