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Hypochondriasis is common in the clinic and in the community. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective in previous trials. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a treatment routinely offered to patients with hypochondriasis in many countries, including Denmark. The aim of this study was to test CBT for hypochondriasis in a centre that was not involved in its development and compare both CBT and short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP) to a waiting-list control and to each other. CBT was modified by including mindfulness and group therapy sessions, reducing the therapist time required. STPP consisted of individual sessions.
Eighty patients randomized to CBT, STPP and the waiting list were assessed on measures of health anxiety and general psychopathology before and after a 6-month treatment period. Waiting-list patients were subsequently offered one of the two active treatments on the basis of re-randomization, and assessed on the same measures post-treatment. Patients were again assessed at 6- and 12-month follow-up points.
Patients who received CBT did significantly better on all measures relative to the waiting-list control group, and on a specific measure of health anxiety compared with STPP. The STPP group did not significantly differ from the waiting-list group on any outcome measures. Similar differences were observed between CBT and STPP during follow-up, although some of the significant differences between groups were lost.
A modified and time-saving CBT programme is effective in the treatment of hypochondriasis, although the two psychotherapeutic interventions differed in structure.
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