A Unified Model of Depression: Integrating Clinical, Cognitive, Biological, and Evolutionary Perspectives

Aaron T. Beck and Keith Bredemeier  –  Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania

 

ATB Headshot

Abstract

We propose that depression can be viewed as an adaptation to conserve energy after the perceived loss of an investment in a vital resource such as a relationship, group identity, or personal asset. Tendencies to process information negatively and experience strong biological reactions to stress (resulting from genes, trauma, or both) can lead to depressogenic beliefs about the self, world, and future. These tendencies are mediated by alterations in brain areas/networks involved in cognition and emotion regulation. Depressogenic beliefs predispose individuals to make cognitive appraisals that amplify perceptions of loss, typically in response to stressors that impact available resources. Clinical features of severe depression (e.g., anhedonia, anergia) result from these appraisals and biological reactions that they trigger (e.g., autonomic, immune, neurochemical). These symptoms were presumably adaptive in our evolutionary history, but are maladaptive in contemporary times. Thus, severe depression can be considered an anachronistic manifestation of an evolutionarily based “program.”

Cost-utility analyses of cognitive-behavioral therapy of depression: A systematic review

Abstract

Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) causes a massive disease burden worldwide. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an important treatment approach for depression. Cost-utility analysis (CUA) is a method to support decisions on efficient allocation of resources in health policy. The objective of our study was to systematically review CUA of CBT in the treatment of patients suffering from MDD.research blog (6)

Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search in Medline, Embase, PsycINFO and National Health Service Economic Evaluation Database (NHS EED) to identify CUA of CBT for MDD. Cost data were inflated to the year 2011 and converted into USD using purchasing power parities (USD PPP) to ensure comparability of the data. Quality assessment of CUA was performed.

Results: Twenty-two studies were included in this systematic review. No study employed a time horizon of more than 5 years. In most studies, individual and group CBT as well as CBT for maintenance showed acceptable incremental cost-utility ratios (<50,000 USD PPP/quality-adjusted life year). The CUA results of CBT for children and adolescents and of computerized CBT were inconsistent.

Discussion: We found consistent evidence that individualized CBT is cost-effective from the perspective of a third-party payer for short-term treatment and for relapse prevention of MDD in the adult population.

 

Brettschneider C., Djadran H. Härter M., Löwe B.Riedel-Heller S., & König H.H. (January 2015). Cost-utility analyses of cognitive-behavioral therapy of depression: A systematic review.  Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (84), 1, 6-21.

Effect of a Cognitive-Behavioral Prevention Program on Depression 6 Years After Implementation Among At-Risk Adolescents A Randomized Clinical Trial

Importance

Adolescents whose parents have a history of depression are at risk for developing depression and functional impairment. The long-term effects of prevention programs on adolescent depression and functioning are not known.

 

research blog (3)

Objective

To determine whether a cognitive-behavioral prevention (CBP) program reduced the incidence of depressive episodes, increased depression-free days, and improved developmental competence 6 years after implementation.

 

Design, Setting, and Participants

A 4-site randomized clinical trial compared the effect of CBP plus usual care vs usual care, through follow-up 75 months after the intervention (88% retention), with recruitment from August 2003 through February 2006 at a health maintenance organization, university medical centers, and a community mental health center. A total of 316 participants were 13 to 17 years of age at enrollment and had at least 1 parent with current or prior depressive episodes. Participants could not be in a current depressive episode but had to have subsyndromal depressive symptoms or a prior depressive episode currently in remission. Analysis was conducted between August 2014 and June 2015.

 

Interventions

The CBP program consisted of 8 weekly 90-minute group sessions followed by 6 monthly continuation sessions. Usual care consisted of any family-initiated mental health treatment.

 

Main Outcomes and Measures

The Depression Symptoms Rating scale was used to assess the primary outcome, new onsets of depressive episodes, and to calculate depression-free days. A modified Status Questionnaire assessed developmental competence (eg, academic or interpersonal) in young adulthood.

 

Results

Over the 75-month follow-up, youths assigned to CBP had a lower incidence of depression, adjusting for current parental depression at enrollment, site, and all interactions (hazard ratio, 0.71 [95% CI, 0.53-0.96]). The CBP program’s overall significant effect was driven by a lower incidence of depressive episodes during the first 9 months after enrollment. The CBP program’s benefit was seen in youths whose index parent was not depressed at enrollment, on depression incidence (hazard ratio, 0.54 [95% CI, 0.36-0.81]), depression-free days (d = 0.34, P = .01), and developmental competence (d = 0.36, P = .04); these effects on developmental competence were mediated via the CBP program’s effect on depression-free days.

 

Conclusions and Relevance

The effect of CBP on new onsets of depression was strongest early and was maintained throughout the follow-up period; developmental competence was positively affected 6 years later. The effectiveness of CBP may be enhanced by additional booster sessions and concomitant treatment of parental depression.

 

Brent, D. A., Brunwasser, S. M., Hollon, S. D., Weersing, V. R., Clarke, G. N., Dickerson, J. F., Beardslee, W. R., … Garber, J. (January 01, 2015). Effect of a cognitive-cehavioral prevention program on depression 6 years after implementation among at-risk adolescents: A randomized clinical trial. Jama Psychiatry, 72, 11, 1110-8.

CBT and Mindfulness for Depression

Rob Webby Robert Hindman, PhD

Clinical Psychologist at Beck Institute

 

Mindfulness-based interventions have been becoming more popular in psychotherapy. One such treatment, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), has specifically been developed to prevent relapse in clients who have experienced recurrent major depressive episodes (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2001).  We have incorporated mindfulness strategies into our work at the Beck Institute. Instead of thinking about mindfulness-based interventions as separate treatments, however, we think about mindfulness as a potential strategy to use in a larger CBT framework.  I’ll review one common mindfulness technique we use with our non-suicidal depressed clients.

A body of research has demonstrated rumination to be an important factor in maintaining depression (e.g., Nolen-Hoeksema, 2000).  We view rumination as a strategy clients use to cope with depression.  For example, Mark, a client I recently treated, felt depressed, then ruminated to try to figure out why he felt depressed. His ruminative thoughts included, “Why do I feel so depressed? What’s wrong with me?  I just can’t do anything right, like I got a bad review at work.  My friends don’t try to call me either. . .”  I worked with this client to help him identify his beliefs about the rumination process instead of solely evaluating the content of each thought.

First I help clients identify, and then evaluate, beliefs about rumination. I start this way (instead of going straight into mindfulness) because clients tend to continue to use strategies that they view as helpful. I want them to recognize that rumination is doing them more harm than good.  One way to identify beliefs about rumination is to complete a cost-benefit analysis, eliciting from clients the advantages and disadvantages of rumination.  Instead of using the term “rumination,” I asked them what they call the strategy (e.g., “asking myself why,” “listing all of my problems,” “trying to think my way out of depression”).

Typical advantages include “It helps me figure out my problems;” “I can come up with solutions.” “I’ll be able to know what to do next time I feel depressed.”  Next we list the disadvantages, such as: “It makes me feel worse.” “Once I start, it’s hard to stop.”  Then we evaluate each advantage.  For instance, I asked Mark, “How often do you come up with a specific solution?” and “If ruminating helped you solve your problems, do you think they would be solved by now?”  Next we evaluate whether the advantages or disadvantages are stronger. Clients have effectively assessed their positive beliefs about rumination when they conclude that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. A list of the advantages and disadvantages shows clients the consequences of rumination and acts a motivator to stop the unhelpful strategy.  (If the advantages are still stronger, you’ll need to either spend more time evaluating the advantages or add to the disadvantages.)

The next step is to teach clients how to use mindfulness as a strategy to disengage from rumination.  I record the mindfulness exercises (usually using clients’ cell phones) to make it easier for them to practice. Before I start, I guide clients through a rumination induction by having them close their eyes and actively think about a topic involved in their typical ruminations. I get them to simulate the process of ruminating in session so they can experience being able to disengage from the rumination process.  As I noted before, this strategy should not be used with actively suicidal clients because it can increase their depressed mood and sense of hopelessness.

Once clients have been ruminating for about 30 seconds, I ask for a rating of their depressed mood from 0-10, turn on the recording app on their phone (“voice memos” on iPhones or “voice recorder” on Androids), and begin guiding them through a mindfulness of the breath exercise that lasts for 5 minutes.  At 5 minutes, I get another mood rating, end the exercise, and ask them about the experience (e.g., “What did you notice?” “Were you able to let go of ruminative thoughts and refocus on breathing?” “What happened to your mood over time?”)  The vast majority of clients learn that it’s possible to disengage from rumination, and that by not actively ruminating, their mood gradually improves.  I make sure to emphasize that mindfulness is not for the purpose of making them feel better or suppressing thoughts but is a strategy to help them relate to their thoughts in a different manner.  Their action plan then consists of listening to the recording every day (preferably at the beginning of the day to serve as a reminder to use mindfulness throughout the day) and to use mindfulness by letting go of thoughts and refocusing on the breath with their eyes open whenever they notice themselves ruminating during the day.

 

Dr. Hindman will be teaching mindfulness exercises as part of the CBT for Depression – Core 1 workshop at Beck Institute in March and the CBT for Anxiety workshop in Chicago in April.

 

References

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2000).  The role of rumination in depressive disorders and mixed anxiety/depressive symptoms.  Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109, 504-511.

Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2001).  Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for depression.  New York: Guilford Press.

CBT for comorbid migraine and/or tension-type headache and major depressive disorder: An exploratory randomized controlled trial

Abstract

Numerous studies have demonstrated comorbidity between migraine and tension-type headache on the one hand, and depression on the other. Presence of depression is a negative prognostic indicator for behavioral treatment of headaches. Despite the recognised comorbidity, there is a limited research literature evaluating interventions designed for comorbid headaches and depression. research blog (2)Sixty six participants (49 female, 17 male) suffering from migraine and/or tension-type headache and major depressive disorder were randomly allocated to a Routine Primary Care control group or a Cognitive Behavior Therapy group that also received routine primary care. The treatment program involved 12 weekly 50-min sessions administered by clinical psychologists. Participants in the treatment group improved significantly more than participants in the control group from pre-to post-treatment on measures of headaches, depression, anxiety, and quality of life. Improvements achieved with treatment were maintained at four month follow-up. Comorbid anxiety disorders were not a predictor of response to treatment, and the only significant predictor was gender (men improved more than women). The new integrated treatment program appears promising and worthy of further investigation.

 

Martin, P. R., Aiello, R., Gilson, K., Meadows, G., Milgrom, J., & Reece, J. (January 01, 2015). Cognitive behavior therapy for comorbid migraine and/or tension-type headache and major depressive disorder: An exploratory randomized controlled trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 73, 8-18.

The New “Homework” in Cognitive Behavior Therapy

By Judith S. Beck, Ph.D., and Francine R. Broder, Psy.D.

 

Judith S. Beck, Ph.D.

Judith S. Beck, Ph.D.

We’ve stopped using the word “homework” in CBT. Too many clients take exception to that term. It reminds them of the drudgery of assignments they had to do at home when they were at school. So in recent times, we’ve switched. “Homework” is now called the “Action Plan.”

We like the label “Action Plan.” It conveys a sense of proactivity, of taking control.

Action plans aren’t optional. They are very carefully created, in a collaborative fashion. Therapists emphasize that most of the work in getting better happens between sessions. A significant part of each session involves helping clients figure out what they need to do outside of the therapy office to feel better and regain a good level of functioning. We tell clients:The New Homework Quote

Fran Web

Francine R. Broder, Psy.D.

That’s why we make sure that whatever is important for the client to remember about the session, including their Action Plan, is recorded, written down or entered as text or audio into an electronic device.

And that’s why, after we’ve finished collaboratively creating the Action Plan, we ask:

How likely are you to do this assignment(s) this week?

And that’s why we continue talking about potential obstacles that could get in the way when clients say they are 90% or less likely to complete the Action Plan.

Here is an example of a client who did not do his action plan, and this is how we worked on it.

A 28-year-old came to treatment to work on reducing depression, social anxiety, and worry about his irritable bowel syndrome.  During our session, he identified “getting into shape” as important to him and set up a specific action plan that included going to the gym he belonged to, two times during the week, for approximately 30 minutes.  Upon returning the following week and checking in on how it went, he stated he did not go.  When asked what got in his way, he stated he did not know.  He was asked to go back to an earlier time in the week, imagine himself about to go to the gym, and to notice the thoughts that were going through his mind.  Using imagery, he was able to identify his interfering thoughts.  Next, we used Socratic questioning, summarizing his conclusions in a two-column thought record.

 

The New Homework ChartThe Action Plan isn’t optional. A considerable body of evidence shows that clients who do homework have better outcomes than clients who do not. See, for example Conklin & Strunk (2015); Kazantzis, Deane, Ronan & L’Abate (2005). It’s up to therapists to help clients carefully design meaningful assignments with a good likelihood of success and to motivate clients to follow through. Finally, we used the two-column thought record to anticipate additional interfering thoughts that could get in the way of engaging in his action plan for the coming week.

 

Conklin, L. R., & Strunk, D. R. (January 01, 2015). A session-to-session examination of homework engagement in cognitive therapy for depression: Do patients experience immediate benefits?Behaviour Research and Therapy, 72, 56-62.

 

Kazantzis, N., & L’Abate, L. (2006). Handbook of homework assignments in psychotherapy: Research, practice, and prevention. New York, NY: Springer.

Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence (prevent): A randomised controlled trial

New Study (1)Abstract:

Background:
Individuals with a history of recurrent depression have a high risk of repeated depressive relapse or recurrence. Maintenance antidepressants for at least 2 years is the current recommended treatment, but many individuals are interested in alternatives to medication. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) has been shown to reduce risk of relapse or recurrence compared with usual care, but has not yet been compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in a definitive trial. We aimed to see whether MBCT with support to taper or discontinue antidepressant treatment (MBCT-TS) was superior to maintenance antidepressants for prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence over 24 months.

Methods:
In this single-blind, parallel, group randomised controlled trial (PREVENT), we recruited adult patients with three or more previous major depressive episodes and on a therapeutic dose of maintenance antidepressants, from primary care general practices in urban and rural settings in the UK. Participants were randomly assigned to either MBCT-TS or maintenance antidepressants (in a 1:1 ratio) with a computer-generated random number sequence with stratification by centre and symptomatic status. Participants were aware of treatment allocation and research assessors were masked to treatment allocation. The primary outcome was time to relapse or recurrence of depression, with patients followed up at five separate intervals during the 24-month study period. The primary analysis was based on the principle of intention to treat. The trial is registered with Current Controlled Trials, ISRCTN26666654.

Findings:
Between March 23, 2010, and Oct 21, 2011, we assessed 2188 participants for eligibility and recruited 424 patients from 95 general practices. 212 patients were randomly assigned to MBCT-TS and 212 to maintenance antidepressants. The time to relapse or recurrence of depression did not differ between MBCT-TS and maintenance antidepressants over 24 months (hazard ratio 0·89, 95% CI 0·67–1·18; p=0·43), nor did the number of serious adverse events. Five adverse events were reported, including two deaths, in each of the MBCT-TS and maintenance antidepressants groups. No adverse events were attributable to the interventions or the trial.

Interpretation:
We found no evidence that MBCT-TS is superior to maintenance antidepressant treatment for the prevention of depressive relapse in individuals at risk for depressive relapse or recurrence. Both treatments were associated with enduring positive outcomes in terms of relapse or recurrence, residual depressive symptoms, and quality of life.

Kuyken, Willem et al. (2015) Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence (PREVENT): A randomised controlled trial. The Lancet (386) 9988, p. 63 – 73.

The Three-Month Effect of Mobile Internet-Based Cognitive Therapy on the Course of Depressive Symptoms in Remitted Recurrently Depressed Patients: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial

New Study (1)Abstract

 Background: There are first indications that an Internet-based cognitive therapy (CT) combined with monitoring by text messages (Mobile CT), and minimal therapist support (e-mail and telephone), is an effective approach of prevention of relapse in depression. However, examining the acceptability and adherence to Mobile CT is necessary to understand and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of this approach.

Method:In this study we used a subset of a randomized controlled trial on the effectiveness of Mobile CT. A total of 129 remitted patients with at least two previous episodes of depression were available for analyses. All available information on demographic characteristics, the number of finished modules, therapist support uptake (telephone and e-mail), and acceptability perceived by the participants was gathered from automatically derived log data, therapists and participants.

Results: Of all 129 participants, 109 (84.5%) participants finished at least one of all eight modules of Mobile CT. Adherence, i.e. the proportion who completed the final module out of those who entered the first module, was 58.7% (64/109). None of the demographic variables studied were related to higher adherence. The total therapist support time per participant that finished at least one module of Mobile CT was 21 min (SD = 17.5). Overall participants rated Mobile CT as an acceptable treatment in terms of difficulty, time spent per module and usefulness. However, one therapist mentioned that some participants experienced difficulties with using multiple CT based challenging techniques.

Conclusion: Overall uptake of the intervention and adherence was high with a low time investment of therapists. This might be partially explained by the fact that the intervention was offered with therapist support by telephone (blended) reducing non-adherence and that this high-risk group for depressive relapse started the intervention during remission. Nevertheless, our results indicate Mobile CT as an acceptable and feasible approach to both participants and therapists.

 

Kok G., Bockting C., Burger H., Smit F. & Riper H. (2014). The Three-Month Effect of Mobile Internet-Based Cognitive Therapy on the Course of Depressive Symptoms in Remitted Recurrently Depressed Patients: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Internet Interventions p. 65-73. doi:10.1016/j.invent.2014.05.002

Telephone-Delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telephone-Delivered Nondirective Supportive Therapy for Rural Older Adults With Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial

New Study (1)Abstract

Importance:  Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is common in older adults; however, access to treatment may be limited, particularly in rural areas.
Objective:To examine the effects of telephone-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) compared with telephone-delivered nondirective supportive therapy (NST) in rural older adults with GAD.

Design, Setting, and Participants:Randomized clinical trial in the participants’ homes of 141 adults aged 60 years and older with a principal or coprincipal diagnosis of GAD who were recruited between January 27, 2011, and October 22, 2013.

Interventions: Telephone-delivered CBT consisted of as many as 11 sessions (9 were required) focused on recognition of anxiety symptoms, relaxation, cognitive restructuring, the use of coping statements, problem solving, worry control, behavioral activation, exposure therapy, and relapse prevention, with optional chapters on sleep and pain. Telephone-delivered NST consisted of 10 sessions focused on providing a supportive atmosphere in which participants could share and discuss their feelings and did not provide any direct suggestions for coping.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Primary outcomes included interviewer-rated anxiety severity (Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale) and self-reported worry severity (Penn State Worry Questionnaire-Abbreviated) measured at baseline, 2 months’ follow-up, and 4 months’ follow-up. Mood-specific secondary outcomes included self-reported GAD symptoms (GAD Scale 7 Item) measured at baseline and 4 months’ follow-up and depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory) measured at baseline, 2 months’ follow-up, and 4 months’ follow-up. Among the 141 participants, 70 were randomized to receive CBT and 71 to receive NST.

Results: At 4 months’ follow-up, there was a significantly greater decline in worry severity among participants in the telephone-delivered CBT group (difference in improvement, -4.07; 95% CI, -6.26 to -1.87; P?=?.004) but no significant differences in general anxiety symptoms (difference in improvement, -1.52; 95% CI, -4.07 to 1.03; P?=?.24). At 4 months’ follow-up, there was a significantly greater decline in GAD symptoms (difference in improvement, -2.36; 95% CI, -4.00 to -0.72; P?=?.005) and depressive symptoms (difference in improvement, -3.23; 95% CI, -5.97 to -0.50; P?=?.02) among participants in the telephone-delivered CBT group.

Conclusions and Relevance: In this trial, telephone-delivered CBT was superior to telephone-delivered NST in reducing worry, GAD symptoms, and depressive symptoms in older adults with GAD.

Brenes G. A., Danhauer S.C., Lyles M.F., Hogan P.E. & Miller M.E. (2015) Telephone-Delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telephone-Delivered Nondirective Supportive Therapy for Rural Older Adults With Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015 Aug 5. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1154.

The impact of executive function on response to cognitive behavioral therapy in late-life depression

New Study (1)Abstract:
Objective: Late-life depression (LLD) is a common and debilitating condition among older adults. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has strong empirical support for the treatment of depression in all ages, including in LLD. In teaching patients to identify, monitor, and challenge negative patterns in their thinking, CBT for LLD relies heavily on cognitive processes and, in particular, executive functioning, such as planning, sequencing, organizing, and selectively inhibiting information. It may be that the effectiveness of CBT lies in its ability to train these cognitive areas.
Methods: Participants with LLD completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery before enrolling in CBT. The current study examined the relationship between neuropsychological function prior to treatment and response to CBT.
Results:When using three baseline measures of executive functioning that quantify set shifting, cognitive flexibility, and response inhibition to predict treatment response, only baseline Wisconsin Card Sort Task performance was associated with a significant drop in depression symptoms after CBT. Specifically, worse performance on the Wisconsin Card Sort Task was associated with better treatment response.
Conclusions: These results suggest that CBT, which teaches cognitive techniques for improving psychiatric symptoms, may be especially beneficial in LLD if relative weaknesses in specific areas of executive functioning are present.

Goodkind M.S., Gallagher-Thompson D., Thompson L.W, Kesler S.R., Anker L. Flournoy J., Berman M. P., Holland J.M., & O’Hara R.M. (2015) The impact of executive function on response to cognitive behavioral therapy in late-life depression. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2015 Jul 30. doi: 10.1002/gps.4325.