Study Supports Personalized Approaches for Anxiety and Depression

Personalized medicine has become a focus in physical and psychological health. No treatment works the same on every client. Therefore, it is necessary to understand what methods of treatment work most effectively for each client based on his or her unique factors, such as age, sex, race, and prior history. When treating people with anxiety, one such variable to consider is the presence of other mood issues—depression in particular. The two most commonly accepted approaches for anxiety are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which includes exposure to anxiety-inducing cues, and acceptance commitment therapy (ACT), which strives to teach a client how to accept anxious emotions as they occur. Although there has been much research exploring the effectiveness of both types of therapy, few studies have looked at how variables such as symptom severity and comorbidity influence treatment outcome.

In an effort to work toward more personalized medicine, Kate B. Taylor-Wolitzky of the Department of Psychology at UCLA recently conducted a study that examined the effectiveness of ACT and CBT on a diverse sample of clients with varying levels of anxiety. She recruited 87 participants, enrolled them in 12 sessions of CBT or ACT, and assessed their anxiety prior to treatment and three more times after therapy concluded. She found that CBT and ACT worked uniquely well at reducing symptoms of anxiety depending on the baseline levels. Specifically, Taylor-Wolitzky discovered that CBT produced better results for clients with moderate anxiety than for those with minimal or extreme symptoms. For individuals with extremely high or low levels of anxiety, ACT was more effective. Additionally, the participants with comorbid depression also had better results with ACT.

Taylor-Wolitzky found that factors such as race, age, and sex did not affect outcomes. The findings of this study suggest that personalized medicine is a goal all therapists should strive for. It is important that factors such as mood disorders, panic, and fear be considered when designing a treatment approach for a client with anxiety. Taylor-Wolitzky hopes the results of her study will help clinicians striving to achieve a personalized approach for their clients. “This finding suggests a helpful prescriptive picture: Those with comorbid mood disorders should be treated with ACT whereas those without comorbid mood disorders may benefit more in the long-term from CBT,” she said.

Wolitzky-Taylor, Kate B., Joanna J. Arch, David Rosenfield, and Michelle G. Craske. Moderators and non-specific predictors of treatment outcome for anxiety disorders: A comparison of cognitive behavioral therapy to acceptance and commitment therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 80.5 (2012): 786-99. Print.

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  • alicia


    October 18th, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    Finally! It seems like many, not all, of the medical community is waking up to discover that one size does not fit all when it comes to recovery and treatment. Just like men and women sometimes require different plans of attack when it comes to treatment, each individual patient has to be viewed as just that, unique and individual, in order to receive the best plan of attack for them. I think that for a long time many prescribers just thought that what works for one will surely work for the others, but I think that we all(hopefully!) now know a little better.

  • Kaye


    October 19th, 2012 at 8:06 AM

    Even though taking a personalized approach probably does equate to more work for the physicians, I am sure that it really helps the patients, and if they are seriously interested in more improved patient care, then this is the way to go.

  • harriet


    October 19th, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    no matter how personalized we get there’s always going to be differences between different clients!here only one form of co-morbidity has been consider.there could be a million differences and we would then only have to go by the person’s DNA maybe…?!

  • Charlotte


    October 20th, 2012 at 5:33 AM

    It is important to never make broad sweeping generalizations when it comes to patient treatments. I want to know that my doctors are looking at me, the person, when coming up with how to bets treat my symptoms, instead of looking at textbook cases and making their treatment decisions that way.
    It’s okay to consult but please don’t presume that just becaus eit worked this way for one perosn that it will do the same for me.
    just like perfume smells a little different on individual people, so too will patient treatments.

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