Trajectories of depression and generalised anxiety symptoms over the course of cognitive behaviour therapy in primary care: an observational, retrospective cohort

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Abstract

Background:
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety. However, most research has focused on the sum scores of symptoms. Relatively little is known about how individual symptoms respond.

Methods:
Longitudinal models were used to explore how depression and generalised anxiety symptoms behave over the course of CBT in a retrospective, observational cohort of patients from primary care settings (n = 5306). Logistic mixed models were used to examine the probability of being symptom-free across CBT appointments, using the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire and the 7-item Generalised Anxiety Disorder scale as measures.

Results:
All symptoms improve across CBT treatment. The results suggest that low mood/hopelessness and guilt/worthlessness improved quickest relative to other depressive symptoms, with sleeping problems, appetite changes, and psychomotor retardation/agitation improving relatively slower. Uncontrollable worry and too much worry were the anxiety symptoms that improved fastest; irritability and restlessness improved the slowest.

Conclusions:
This research suggests there is a benefit to examining symptoms rather than sum scores alone. Investigations of symptoms provide the potential for precision psychiatry and may explain some of the heterogeneity observed in clinical outcomes when only sum scores are considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4648 - 4656
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Medicine
Volume53
Issue number10
Early online date16 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

This work was conducted as part of a PhD studentship from the University of Bath awarded to Clarissa Bauer-Staeb.

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