Talk therapy could improve mental health in people with dementia

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People with dementia may have mood changes, becoming irritable, tearful, anxious, depressed, or agitated.

In a study from University College London, scientists found people living with dementia may benefit from talking therapies available on the NHS if they suffer from anxiety or depression.

Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are very common in people with dementia, and previous studies estimate that 38% of people with mild dementia are affected by the conditions.

In the study, the team examined data from 2,515,402 people who had strong anxiety or depression and completed a course of treatment via the national “Improving Access to Psychological Therapies” (IAPT) service in England between 2012 and 2019.

IAPT is a free NHS service that offers evidence-based therapies for treating anxiety and depression.

The researchers looked at all those who had a dementia diagnosis before starting IAPT treatment, which was 1,549 people.

They found that among people with dementia, the treatment proved to be clinically beneficial and 63% of them saw a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety following IAPT. Meanwhile, approximately 40% recovered completely.

Comparatively, in the control group, 70% of participants saw an improvement in symptoms and 47% recovered.

The findings suggest that while people with dementia are less likely to improve or recover than those without dementia, psychological therapies offered in primary care mental health services can be beneficial for them.

Consequently, the findings support the use of IAPT to treat anxiety and depression in people with dementia.

The researchers hope this study will have implications for encouraging referrals and adaptations to increase access and enhance outcomes for people living with dementia.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about new drugs for incurable vascular dementia, and high blood pressure may lower dementia risk for some old adults.

For more information about dementia, please see recent studies that cataract removal may reduce the dementia risk by 30%, and results showing these antioxidants could help reduce the risk of dementia.

The study was conducted by Georgia Bell et al and published in eClinicalMedicine.

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