Anxiety level and severity of skin condition predicts outcome of psychotherapy in atopic dermatitis patients

Authors

  • Jakob Linnet Cand Psych, PhD,

    1. From the Institute of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, and Department of Dermatology, Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
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  • Gregor B. E. Jemec MD, DMedSci

    1. From the Institute of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, and Department of Dermatology, Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
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Jakob Linnet, Cand Psych, PhD
Harvard University
Department of Psychology
William James Hall
33 Kirkland St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
E-mail: jlinnet@wjh.harvard.edu

Abstract

Abstract

Background  Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a skin disease associated with an increased anxiety level. Psychotherapy studies of AD patients report improvement in anxiety level and skin condition after psychotherapy.

Methods  This psychotherapy study investigated 32 adult AD patients with mild to severe AD. Sixteen participants received 6 months of brief dynamic psychotherapy, while 16 were controls. The participants were compared using Spielberger's State–Trait Anxiety Index (STAI) and Severity Scoring of Atopic Dermatitis Index (SCORAD) pre- and post-therapy, and at follow-up after 12 months.

Results  Initially, no outcome differences were found between the two groups; however, a post hoc multiple regression analysis indicated that AD patients with a higher intake level of trait anxiety (TA) showed greater improvement after psychotherapy, in terms of anxiety level and skin condition, than did AD patients with a low intake level of TA. Atopic dermatitis patients with a higher anxiety level, in the no-treatment group, were more likely to discontinue the program.

Conclusions  The results suggest that AD patients with a higher anxiety level are more likely to improve their psychologic and dermatologic condition after psychotherapy, but are more vulnerable to nonadherence when no adequate psychologic treatment is offered. The results underscore the importance of proper psychologic assessment and treatment in addition to dermatologic treatment.

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