Depression and anxiety often occur together. However, until recently, few studies have examined the impact of depression therapy on anxiety symptoms.
To learn more, a group of researchers conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial in teenagers to compare the results of personalized depression therapy to a program that does not match their risk factors. Results were published in the journal Behavioral Research and Therapy.
Using data from the Personalized Depression Prevention (PDP) study, the researchers evaluated outcomes on personalized depression therapy through 18 months. Participants included 204 adolescents in grades 6 through 12 who lived in New Jersey or Colorado without major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or psychosis. They dived them into high cognitive-low interpersonal risk or low cognitive-high interpersonal risk groups. Participants received therapy tailored to either interpersonal skills or coping with stress. Some were paired to a group that fit their vulnerabilities, while others were mismatched.
During the program, anxiety symptoms of participants in both groups improved, though mismatched youth showed greater improvements in anxiety than mismatched. But during the 18-month follow-up period, the opposite occurred. Teenagers matched to the right program for them showed a continued decrease in anxiety symptoms while mismatched youth’s symptoms increased. “Perhaps it is only after completing the prevention programs that youth have acquired the requisite knowledge and skills to prevent or manage the cognitive and interpersonal risks and, in turn, experience a reduction in symptoms,” researchers said.
The small sample size affected overall statistical power. Also, because the study did not include participants with elevated symptoms, the results may not apply to all groups.
“Given the strong connection between depression and anxiety (eg, high co-occurrence, shared risk factors), developing and testing interventions that have beneficial effects on both may be an efficient and cost-effective approach to reducing the population burden associated with these conditions,” researchers concluded.
Jones JD, Hankin BL, Gallop R, et al. Effects of personalized depression prevention on anxiety through 18-month follow-up: a randomized controlled trial [published online ahead of print, 2022 Jul 3]. Behav Res Ther. 2022;156:104156. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2022.104156