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Cortisol as a predictor of psychological therapy response in anxiety disorders - systematic review and meta-analysis


Fischer, Susanne; Cleare, Anthony J (2017). Cortisol as a predictor of psychological therapy response in anxiety disorders - systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 47:60-68.

Abstract

BACKGROUND
Although psychotherapy generally is effective in anxiety disorders, many patients are treatment-resistant. At the same time, some patients with anxiety disorders show alterations in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, one of the major stress-responsive systems. Since raised levels of the end product of the HPA axis, cortisol, adversely affect cognition, we hypothesised that more pronounced alterations in cortisol levels would be associated with a less favourable response to psychotherapy. More specifically, the higher patients' basal levels and the lower their levels during exposure, the less likely we expected them to profit from treatment.

METHODS
We systematically searched the Cochrane Library, EMBASE, MEDLINE, and PsycINFO to review the literature and perform a meta-analysis on the relationship between pre-treatment cortisol and psychotherapy response. Records were included if they studied patients with any anxiety disorder undergoing psychotherapy, with a pre-treatment cortisol and a post-treatment symptom measure. Correlation coefficients were extracted for meta-analyses.

RESULTS
We identified six studies (N=274). No relationship between patients' basal cortisol and post-treatment symptoms was found (p=0.981). The systematic review showed higher cortisol during exposure sessions to predict better outcomes. Meta-analysis did not confirm this (p=0.603).

CONCLUSIONS
Basal cortisol did not seem to predict psychological therapy responses in patients with anxiety disorders. By contrast, the current state of research is equivocal in terms of whether higher cortisol concentrations during exposure sessions are linked with better treatment outcomes, and more research is needed to investigate this.

Abstract

BACKGROUND
Although psychotherapy generally is effective in anxiety disorders, many patients are treatment-resistant. At the same time, some patients with anxiety disorders show alterations in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, one of the major stress-responsive systems. Since raised levels of the end product of the HPA axis, cortisol, adversely affect cognition, we hypothesised that more pronounced alterations in cortisol levels would be associated with a less favourable response to psychotherapy. More specifically, the higher patients' basal levels and the lower their levels during exposure, the less likely we expected them to profit from treatment.

METHODS
We systematically searched the Cochrane Library, EMBASE, MEDLINE, and PsycINFO to review the literature and perform a meta-analysis on the relationship between pre-treatment cortisol and psychotherapy response. Records were included if they studied patients with any anxiety disorder undergoing psychotherapy, with a pre-treatment cortisol and a post-treatment symptom measure. Correlation coefficients were extracted for meta-analyses.

RESULTS
We identified six studies (N=274). No relationship between patients' basal cortisol and post-treatment symptoms was found (p=0.981). The systematic review showed higher cortisol during exposure sessions to predict better outcomes. Meta-analysis did not confirm this (p=0.603).

CONCLUSIONS
Basal cortisol did not seem to predict psychological therapy responses in patients with anxiety disorders. By contrast, the current state of research is equivocal in terms of whether higher cortisol concentrations during exposure sessions are linked with better treatment outcomes, and more research is needed to investigate this.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:April 2017
Deposited On:22 Nov 2017 14:37
Last Modified:19 Feb 2018 09:19
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0887-6185
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2017.02.007
PubMed ID:28273494

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