For many patients the reality of losing their sight through diseases such as cancer or age related macular degeneration soon catches up with them and the loss that they feel in their daily lives and feelings of depression can become very overpowering. There is an associated risk of suffering from depression in these patients but now it has been suggested that behavior activation therapy can reduce the risk by up to half.
In America alone 1.8 million people aged 40 and over are currently affected by AMD and 7.3 million are thought to be at risk of developing it. These are worrying figures.
The study co-author Robin Casten, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, has been calling upon behavior activation therapy as a method that involves helping people to recognize that the loss of enjoyed activities could lead to depression, and then helping them to re-engage with those activities. The research was funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI).
One hundred and eighty eight people diagnosed with bilateral AMD were used in the study. The participants had an average age of 84 years, 50% lived on their own and 70% were female. All had the same level of visual impairment, mild depressive symptoms and were at risk of developing clinical depression.
Following two appointments with an optometrist who gave them low vision aids to assist them them, the participants were put into two groups, one would receive behavior activation therapy from an Occupational Therapist and the other were used as a control. The OT worked with aids and implemented practical changes to their homes to assist in their home routines, and engage their social activities while setting personal goals
The researchers calculated that behavior activation reduced the risk of depression by 50% compared with the control treatment after input of four months.The researchers are continuing to follow the participants of the study in order to see if these recorded benefits are maintained for one year.