Cognitive behavioural therapy for non-cardiac chest pain
Brown, Shona Lynsey
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Objectives: This thesis aims to explore evidence for the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for non-cardiac chest pain (NCCP). Design: The systematic review aimed to evaluate evidence for CBT as an effective intervention for anxiety in the NCCP population. Study one describes the chest pain characteristics, illness beliefs and prevalence of anxiety in a NCCP sample in a cross-sectional design. Study two explores the acceptability and clinical effectiveness of a CBT-based self-help intervention for NCCP patients, using a between subjects, repeated measures design. Methods: A systematic review was completed via a comprehensive literature search for comparative studies examining CBT-based interventions for NCCP including a measure of anxiety. In the empirical study, participants completed measures of anxiety, illness beliefs and indices of chest pain (self-reported frequency, severity and impact on activities) at baseline. Comparisons between illness beliefs and anxiety were undertaken using descriptive statistics and Pearson correlations. Participants were randomised to receive a CBT-based self-help intervention booklet or treatment as usual, with questionnaires re-administered at three-month follow-up. ANOVAs were used to evaluate whether the intervention led to improvements in anxiety levels, or increased belief in participants’ personal control of symptoms. Results: Ten studies met inclusion criteria for the systematic review, with four studies showing evidence regarding the effectiveness of CBT for anxiety. Approximately two thirds of the thesis research sample reported on-going pain following clinic attendance, for the majority this was ‘very mild’ or ‘mild’ pain. Almost half (47%) reported experiencing clinically significant anxiety. Stress was the most common causal attribution advocated by the sample to explain their chest pain. Anxiety scores were significantly associated with psychological attribution scores, but not with personal control or illness coherence beliefs. In study two, 87 participants completed the study and ITT analyses were completed on 119. There were no significant differences between the groups in terms of reduced anxiety or self-reported belief in personal control of symptoms. The intervention booklet was evaluated largely positively by those who reported reading it. Conclusions: CBT-based self-help appears an acceptable intervention for those diagnosed with NCCP. Further research is needed to identify those who are most likely to benefit from such self-help intervention.