THURSDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- A combination of
antidepressant therapy and counseling is an effective way to treat
anxiety in older adults, a new study finds.
Together, these treatments keep seniors anxiety-free for a
longer time than either medication or counseling alone, according
to the researchers.
The investigators studied 73 people, aged 60 and older, with
generalized anxiety disorder, a problem that affects about 5
percent of seniors. All the patients began the study by taking the
antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro) for three months.
After that time, the patients were randomly assigned to one of
two groups. The first group simply continued taking the
antidepressant for another 16 weeks, while the second group
continued taking the drug but also received 16 weeks of cognitive
During cognitive behavioral therapy, patients learned about the
nature of anxiety, worked on relaxation techniques, such as deep,
slow breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, and were also
taught problem-solving skills, the study authors explained in a
Washington University School of Medicine news release.
After four months, participants were randomly divided again,
with half continuing on the antidepressant for another seven months
and half getting an inactive placebo. At the end of 13 months the
researchers compared results.
"Those individuals who had both the drug and cognitive
behavioral therapy also had a lower relapse rate, and if they did
relapse, it happened later," Dr. Eric Lenze, a professor of
psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St.
Louis, said in the news release.
Taking the antidepressant lowered anxiety levels, but the
improvement was much greater in patients who also received
cognitive behavioral therapy, according to the study, published
online recently in the
American Journal of Psychiatry.
However, not all older adults benefit from cognitive behavioral
therapy, Lenze said.
"Antidepressant medication and cognitive behavioral therapy
appear to work well in combination, but if an older adult has begun
to develop dementia related to Alzheimer's disease or some other
illness, it appears even small amounts of cognitive impairment from
those disorders can interfere with the benefits this combination of
therapies provides," Lenze explained.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about