July 28, 2011

Cognitive Therapy for Unexplained Pain

(Ivanhoe Newswire)--A new therapy may relieve symptoms of fatigue, weakness, and dizziness that cannot be explained by underlying diseases. These symptoms as well as tingling and numbness, are referred to as functional or psychogenic symptoms. One third of clinic visits are in response to these symptoms but often times the outcomes are poor because of inefficient treatment. Studies have shown that intense cognitive therapy can help to reduce these symptoms but obstacles exist in providing this kind of treatment.

Critics of this psychological treatment resist mental health services although cognitive behavioral therapy aims to improve physical symptoms, emotional state, and function by helping people to better understand and respond to their symptoms and life situation. Researchers conducted a study in which they developed a self-help workbook for patients with physical symptoms based on the cognitive therapy. In total, 62 patients were given a workbook and, for over three moths, had up to four half-hour sessions guiding them on how to use the book. These patients were compared to 63 people who received their usual medical care for their psychiatric diagnosis.

Those patients who received extra cognitive therapy were twice as likely to report improvements in their overall health after three months as oppose to those who did not receive the additional treatment. There was not a significant difference in improvements however after six months had elapsed but those that received extra therapy continued to have greater improvements in their physical functioning and were more satisfied with their overall treatment.

Michael Sharp, M.D., of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland is the author of this study and was quoted saying, "This study suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy-based guided self-help may be a new and potentially useful first step in improving the management of these challenging symptoms. This approach needs further evaluation but can be potentially effective and cost-efficient first step toward providing more help for these often neglected patients."

SOURCE: The Medical Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, July 27, 2011