Somatic symptoms in adult anxiety disorders and response to cognitive behavioral therapy

Date of Completion

January 2008


Psychology, Clinical|Psychology, Physiological




Each year, nearly one fifth of the U.S. adult population will suffer symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Many will also experience somatic distress, further contributing to the burden of disease and treatment. The current study was undertaken to assess the predictive value of somatic symptoms among adults with anxiety disorders to the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy. Patients meeting DSM-IV criteria for a primary anxiety disorder (n=141) received outpatient cognitive-behavioral therapy at a hospital-based specialty clinic. Standardized outcome measures, including the Beck Depression Inventory-II, Beck Anxiety Inventory, Spielberger Trait Anxiety Inventory (Form Y), and Clinical Global Impression Scale were used to assess the prevalence of somatic symptoms, patient and clinician-rated severity of illness, and response to treatment. Illness-related disability in multiple domains was assessed using the Sheehan Disability Scales. Multiple indices of somatic symptoms at pre-treatment were calculated from items contained in the Beck Anxiety and Depression Inventories. A series of linear regressions was conducted to assess the predictive value of somatic indices to changes in standardized outcome measures. Pre-treatment values were found to significantly predict post-treatment symptom severity for most measures. None of the indices of somatic symptoms was found to have significant predictive value for changes in symptom severity from pre- to post-treatment. Proposed explanations for the current null findings are discussed in the context of existing research, and directions for future research are explored. ^