Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a degenerative neurological condition that affects motor function. A large portion of people who have PD also struggle with psychological problems, including sleep impairment, psychotic episodes, learning deficiencies, anxiety, and even depression, with depression being the most common. The caregivers of individuals with PD are also at increased risk for emotional distress and psychological problems. Very little research has focused on how to reduce the symptoms of depression in PD (dPD). To address this obvious gap, Roseanne D. Dobkin of the Department of Psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School recently conducted a study to measure the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) on individuals with dPD.
Dobkin examined 80 clients who had dPD and enrolled them, along with their caretakers, into the study that compared traditional clinical treatment and monitoring with CBT over 10 weeks. She found that the inclusion of the caretakers had a strikingly positive effect on both the clients with dPD and the caregivers. By learning how to change attitudes and behaviors, caregivers were more sympathetic to the clients. Their stress was reduced, and in turn, the stress, anxiety, and depression in the PD clients was reduced as well. The findings also showed increase in executive functioning in the caretakers as a result of the CBT.
The study revealed that the clients with dPD and their caretakers benefited greatly from the work they did outside of therapy as well. For instance, the caregivers and clients were instructed to complete homework relating to their treatment, such as practicing specific behaviors and becoming aware of their thought patterns. This exercise allowed clients, both the pDP clients and caretakers, to fully maximize the skills they acquired while in session. Dobkin believes that this study provides evidence that CBT is a viable option for treating depression in individuals with Parkinson’s disease, as well as those who care for them.
Dobkin, R. D., Rubino, J. T., Allen, L. A., Friedman, J., Gara, M. A., Mark, M. H., et al. (2012). Predictors of treatment response to cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression in Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027695
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