Severity of Anxiety Did Not Increase During Pandemic

Furthermore, patients already in therapy for anxiety did not experience worsening of anxiety during the pandemic
Severity of Anxiety Did Not Increase During Pandemic
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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

THURSDAY, March 21, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- The pandemic did not worsen the severity of anxiety overall or among those already seeking outpatient treatment for anxiety prior to the start of the pandemic, according to a study published online March 13 in PLOS ONE.

David H. Rosmarin, Ph.D., from McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, and Steven Pirutinsky, Ph.D., from the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work in New York City, evaluated effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on responses to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety in a clinically heterogeneous sample of patients. The analysis included 764 psychotherapy outpatients with start dates prepandemic (before Dec. 31, 2019), at the pandemic onset (Jan. 1, 2020, to March 31, 2020), during the pandemic (April 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020), and postpandemic (after Jan. 1, 2021).

There was a mean of 7.38 anxiety measurements per patient. The researchers found that patients presented with moderate levels of anxiety (M = 13.25), which rapidly decreased for 25 days (M = 9.46) and thereafter slowly declined into the mild symptom range during the remainder of the study period (M = 7.36). This trajectory represents a clinically and statistically significant change. There were no substantive differences between groups. Additionally, there was no increase in anxiety during the acute pandemic phase.

"Our research suggests that CBT and dialectical behavior therapy can offer major benefits to protect individuals' mental health amidst a major world catastrophe and period of upheaval," Rosmarin said in a statement.

Abstract/Full Text

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