How Does Talking Therapy Contribute to Decreasing Cases of Dementia?

Caring for your mental health is as vital as prioritizing your physical condition. Everything starts with your mind because the brain is the control system of your body. That’s why whenever the brain is not feeling well due to stress and anxiety, your productivity declines, and you lose interest in taking care of yourself. Such mental conditions can make you lose motivation, and being overly drained can lead to depression. Your mental and physical health is on the line when you feel all those negative emotions simultaneously. It’s a serious mental health disorder that cannot be easily cured, like how you cope with stress. Fighting depression will be difficult, but you can seek aid from medications or psychotherapy.

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Your brain is in survival mode when you have depression. Every thought you have is against you — an inner battle you will deal with daily. No matter how much you try to distract yourself, those thoughts always find a way to creep in. For this reason, medical help is essential, especially talking therapy. During each session, a psychotherapist will guide you toward healing. The professional will help you identify the root cause of your depression. It’s going to be a long journey, so it’s best to be patient with yourself. Also, opening up emotional wounds might be hard, but it will help your doctor identify your triggers and how to healthily deal with them. There’s nothing wrong with seeking psychotherapy, especially since researchers discovered that depression has another effect on the human body.

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In a recent study, data has shown a link between talking therapy and dementia. The research was published in Psychological Medicine, and one of its lead authors is Dr. Amber John from UCL Psychology and Language Sciences. References from the UCL-led Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care, indicate that 40% of dementia cases are possibly linked to a variety of risk factors. Studies prior to the team’s research also indicate that older adults with depression more often became dementia patients. To further provide proof, they utilized records from the national “Improving Access To Psychological Therapies” (IAPT) service. They chose 119,808 patients over the age of 65 diagnosed with clinical depression that sought therapy from 2012 to 2019.

For more efficient data, they determined each person’s depression symptoms through a Patient Health Questionnaire. After laying out all the information, they analyzed the connection between IAPT patients’ depression level and their hospital records regarding dementia. They were able to acquire 106,069 samples which will be needed throughout the next process of the study. Out of those samples, there were only 4,617 patients with both a history of depression and dementia. The results showed that 65% of the patients did not develop dementia due to major mental health progress after therapy. Whereas 60% developed dementia even after therapy.

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Moreover, 4% of the samples that had a life-changing experience after therapy had dementia up to 8 years later. People who did not gain anything after therapy had a slightly higher rate than the first group, which is 5%. The team also mentioned that the effectiveness of talking therapy depends on how frequently an older adult attends sessions. The more you heal from depression, the lesser the risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease. Although the team gained new findings, Dr. Amber John clarified that this is the first study about lowering dementia rates by decreasing cases of depression. Further research is still required to provide more concrete information to understand the link between the two health complications.

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“Our findings could be due to a second explanation, in that people with underlying dementia, who are not yet diagnosed, may do worse in therapy settings — their depression does not improve — due to emerging cognitive impairment or because therapies are not appropriately tailored to this population. Future research should aim to distinguish between these possibilities,” Dr. John explained. There’s also an issue about older adults not being able to access treatments from the NHS despite apparent signs of depression. Mental health services are more open to younger citizens, which puts limits on their research.

“Older people are currently under-represented in psychological therapy services. These results suggest that increasing access to these services for older people and optimizing therapy outcomes may be an important goal for research and policy, given they may contribute to dementia risk reduction, as well as being important in and of themselves,” Dr. John shared. Katherine Gray, Research Communications Manager at Alzheimer’s Society, mentioned the significance of the research’s findings, as it will unravel more information about dementia and its risk factors.

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“We welcome the Government’s recent pledge to double its annual research spend on dementia and commit an additional £95m investment through the new National Dementia Mission, which will help accelerate game-changing research, which will transform the lives of thousands of people,” Katherine Gray said. Various organizations are now working hand in hand to help people determine if they are at risk of dementia. Researchers still have a lot of factors to consider, such as failure to recover after psychotherapy for those who might be the early stages of the degenerative disease. Talking therapy also can be ineffective if the person was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment at or before the session. The team will also consider the timeline of the patient’s therapy records and ethnicity.

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