Study tests efficacy of phone-based collaborative care in easing anxiety symptoms

A phone-based collaborative care program is significantly more effective in alleviating symptoms of panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) than typical care aimed at improving individuals’ physical and mental well-being, anxiety and mood disorder symptoms. These were the findings of a study led by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine as part of the Reduce Limitations from Anxiety (RELAX) trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The study was published online in the March 2017 issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine (JGIM).

For the study, the researchers recruited 329 participants, aged between 18 and 64 years, who were references of their primary care doctors practicing at six different locations affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). Among the participants:

  • Approximately 250, who were categorized as “highly anxious”, were randomly allocated to either a phone-based treatment program or to the standard care of their primary care doctors.
  • The remaining 79, who showed “moderate” anxiety symptoms, were assigned to an active surveillance, or “wait-and-watch” group. If their anxiety symptoms aggravated, they were randomly assigned to one of the two groups as the other 250 participants at a later stage.

A care manager assigned to the study made regular phone calls to participants in the phone-based care group and provided basic psycho-education, encouraged healthy habits (sleeping, exercising, avoiding excess alcohol), evaluated treatment inclinations for medicines used to control anxiety, monitored responses to treatment, and conveyed participants’ care preferences and progress to primary care doctors.

Collaborative care effective in treating anxiety

A follow-up assessment over a 12-month period showed:

  • Remission of anxiety symptoms in 53 percent of phone-based care participants against 32 percent in participants who remained under the standard treatment of their primary care doctors.
  • Significant improvements in the physical and mental well-being as well as in panic and mood disorder symptoms. The researchers found that the effects of these improvements were sustained for an additional year from the end of the phone-based care.
  • Greatest levels of improvements were observed in Afro-Americans and male participants.

Over the course of follow-up, 79 patients who were regarded as having moderate anxiety at the beginning of the study were generally found to be doing well, irrespective of their later assignment to the phone-based care group or not.

Bruce L. Rollman, professor of medicine and director at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Behavioral Health and Smart Technology and lead author of the study, stated that although several clinical trials in the past have proved the efficacy of collaborative care for treating symptoms of depression in day-to-day health care, relatively fewer studies have focused on its effectiveness in treating anxiety. This is despite similarities in their occurrence, adversarial impact on physical and mental well-being and burden on health care services.

Alternate forms of treatment coupled with mainstream options to treat anxiety

As per the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issues among Americans. Approximately 18 percent of adults suffer from some form of anxiety disorder in a given year, of which nearly 23 percent cases are classified as severe. Although anxiety disorders are treatable, approximately 37 percent of the affected population is receiving treatment.

Rollman is of the opinion that care managers who have received college education and are not from a mental health background can provide effective phone-based collaborative care for anxiety if they follow treatment processes based on scientific evidence and are guided by primary care doctors.

People suffering from anxiety or any other mental disorder experience severe anguish and find it difficult to lead a normal life. Friends and family can play a supporting role and prompt them to seek treatment. Early diagnosis of symptoms of anxiety can help a person get timely help. If you or a loved one is battling anxiety disorders, contact experts from the Anxiety Disorder Treatment Arizona who can suggest the best GAD treatment in Arizona. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-425-9317 or chat online to avail the facilities of the finest anxiety disorder treatment centers in Arizona.