Depression can be overwhelming and often difficult to treat, but a new study suggests that metacognitive therapy (MCT), a type of brain training that helps people stop obsessive thinking patterns, could help people reduce negative thoughts, and ultimately recover from their depression.
The study found that after 10 weeks of MCT, 80 percent of depression patients reported a full recovery from their symptoms, compared to only 5 percent in a control group, Health reported. Few patients experienced depression relapses once the therapy had finished, a common problem with current treatments. In addition, patients also reported that their anxiety symptoms had improved, and overall no patients reported that their depression got worse after MCT treatment. This is the first published study to show that MCT may be effective at treating the condition, Health reported.
“In MCT we often start out with postponing worry and rumination (which most people are able to do) and later we use something called detached mindfulness,” co-author Stian Solem told Health. “It involves being aware of the trigger thought, but choosing not to engage in it.”
According to the MCT Institute, MCT is a type of treatment that focuses on reminding patients that they are in control of both their thoughts and behavior. It teaches patients to recognize patterns of worry, rumination, and fixation of attention.
"Anxiety and depression give rise to difficult and painful negative thoughts,” explained study co-author Roger Hagen in a recent statement. “Many patients have thoughts of mistakes, past failures or other negative thoughts. Metacognitive therapy addresses thinking processes, rather than the thought content.”
For the study, now published online in Frontiers in Psychology, the research team from The Norwegian University of Science and Technology offered MCT to 20 patients with depression. These patients attended 10 therapy sessions over a 10-week period. They then compared their results with that of 19 control patients who did not receive any treatment for their therapy over the course of 10 weeks.
Finding a more effective treatment for depression is important as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate this problem affects around one in 20 Americans over the age of 12. Depression is described as a serious mental health condition characterized by persistent sadness and irritability. It can lead to mortality, lowered workplace productivity, and can increase the risk for other serious health conditions such as substance abuse and eating disorders.
The team hope these finding may boost awareness of MCT in the U.S. as a treatment for depression; right now, cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as talk therapy, remains the most common treatment option for depression patients in America, Health reported.
Source: Hagen R, Hjemdal O, Solem S, et al. Metacognitive Therapy for Depression in Adults: A Waiting List Randomized Controlled Trial with Six Months Follow-Up. Frontiers in Psychology. 2017