A complex interplay: cognitive behavioural therapy for severe health anxiety in Addison’s Disease to reduce emergency department admissions

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Abstract

Objectives: Addison's Disease is a rare chronic illness caused by adrenocortical insufficiency, commonly treated with synthetic hormones. Due to the pivotal role of the regulating hormone cortisol in Addison’s Disease, there is a common symptom overlap between the presentation of anxiety and adrenal crisis. Previous literature has identified the prevalence of anxiety and depression in endocrinological disorders, however there is a paucity of research examining the complex interplay between Addison’s Disease and anxiety. This paper describes a single case treatment of a patient with severe health anxiety and co-morbid Addison’s Disease who frequently attended and were admitted to the Emergency Department. The aims of the study were to establish if standard cognitive behavioural therapy for health anxiety in Addison’s Disease can lead to a reduction in psychological distress, and whether this approach is an effective intervention for the reduction of Emergency Department admissions.
Method: A single case design was used, with pre and post measures of health anxiety, general anxiety and depression. Data on Emergency Department admissions prior to and following treatment were used to assess change in this domain.

Results: Reliable and clinically significant reductions were seen across all measures, from severe to sub-clinical levels. There was a complete amelioration of Emergency Department admissions in the 12 months following completion of treatment.

Conclusions: This preliminary study provides a sound rationale for further research into Addison’s Disease complicated by anxiety. Findings support the clinical utility of the cognitive behavioural therapy model for complex presentations of Addison’s Disease, offering a potential treatment option where anxiety is elevated and interfering with self-management and leading to high levels of health service use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-426
JournalBehavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy
Volume45
Issue number4
Early online date9 Apr 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

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