Current Studies on Anxiety Treatment and the Role of Cognitive Factors
Anxiety disorder treatment studies have been designed so that medications and cognitive or behavioral therapies can be tested head-to-head.
In one clinical trial, two separate centers are examining how well drug and behavioral therapies work separately and together in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Data collected from this study should help scientists determine if one of the treatments works better than the other in decreasing obsessions and compulsions. In addition, the direct comparison of the combined treatment versus the medication alone will provide much needed information on whether the high relapse rate associated with stopping the drug can be reduced. The comparison should also help determine if the medication can enhance compliance with the therapy.
Many of the current medications for anxiety disorders affect the neurotransmitter serotonin. New treatment approaches are examining drugs that affect other neurotransmitters and brain chemicals, such as:
A new research tool, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, will help scientists measure brain levels of GABA and other substances.
Scientists are also looking at combinations of medications that may have a synergistic effect. In panic disorder, for example, studies are underway to determine if an antidepressant medication that affects serotonin works better when used with the new anti-anxiety drug buspirone.
Cognitive factors play a significant role in the onset of anxiety disorders. People at risk for these disorders tend to be overly responsive to potentially threatening stimuli. Studies are underway to look at how people with anxiety disorders process information. The goal is to see which cognitive capabilities are affected by anxiety and which are free to handle other information. Data collected from the studies should help researchers determine more about the brain pathology associated with anxiety disorders.