Anxiety disorder treated via phone good for rural patients

GADcallsIt looks like help really is just a phone call away.

In a recent study published by JAMA Psychiatry, researchers called patients suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) using a phone to provide therapy to adults living in rural areas.


They found that delivering cognitive behavioural therapy this way worked better to decrease worry, GAD symptoms and symptoms of depression. They were looking exclusively at older adults who lived in rural areas where it would be difficult for patients to receive care for mental health treatment.

GAD is one of the most common anxiety disorders in older adults and is associated with poor quality of life, increased health care utilization and impaired memory. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, GAD affects about 40 million people in the U.S., which represents 18 percent of America’s population.

The association notes that only one-third of people suffering from an anxiety disorder get treatment. Medications and psychotherapy are the primary treatments. The study noted older adults tend to lean towards psychotherapy rather than drugs to treat anxiety. The problem is many of these people live in areas where they have no access to receive this kind of treatment.

Gretchen Brenes, of the Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C., and her team examined the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and nondirective supportive therapy (NST) in a randomized clinical trial of 141 adults. The participants were age 60 or older and suffered from GAD. The participants (70 were assigned to telephone CBT and 71 to telephone NST) were followed up at two months and four months. During the calls for CBT, the seniors explored symptom recognition and coping mechanism among other things. And the calls for NST asked seniors to share their feelings, but coping mechanisms were not discussed.


Researchers found both CBT and NST reduced the symptoms of GAD, but CBT worked better according to the follow ups. Researchers note the symptoms were self-reported.

“Telephone-delivered psychotherapy is one way to overcome some barriers to mental health treatment that rural older adults face,” the study concludes.


Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.