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Research as shown that cognitive behaviour therapy can be helpful in managing arthritis. It’s currently not utilised in the management of arthritis by the National Health Service and is only rarely recommended to those who have shown signs of depression related to their condition. However, arthritis is quite clearly a physical condition, and although I understand that a healthy mind is vital in the management of any long term condition, I’d like to explore how exactly CBT is helpful and if it can be seen as a viable alternative or complementary treatment for arthritis.
Most of us know about CBT is one of the most common types of psychological assistance recommended to people in the UK. It’s a type of treatment that encourages you to feel better, not simply through talking therapy, but by helping people alter the way they think about things and the actions they take. It’s a practical way of helping people manage their moods that won’t require years of continual therapy.
Arthritis is a condition where a patient experiences painful inflammation of their joints. This can be caused by many different factors, depending on the type of arthritis you have. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are the two main types of arthritis that affect people. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, where the body actually attacks the joints. The causes that could trigger an attack like this have not yet been identified. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is, tend to develop in people with low bone density as a result of wear and tear.
Arthritis can often cause a lot of pain and discomfort to its sufferers, which has been proven to cause depression and low mood. It’s in these cases that people would normally be recommended CBT or other treatments to help improve enhance positive thinking, however it’s interesting that research has actually showed that a positive attitude can have an influence on how people are able to deal with pain. Initially, I found this confusing, but as I did more research into the topic, it became clearer. Similarly to how research has showed that mindfulness meditation can be use as part of cancer treatment to help control depression. This is largely believed to be due to the fact that it helps increase white matter in the brain, enhancing a person’s self-control, however it encompasses a similar ‘mind-over-matter’ type of approach to complementary treatment.
In general, it is just easier to cope with difficult situations when you are in a positive frame of mind, but according to the study, this is also the case with conditions that are likely to cause chronic pain and discomfort. However, I have to be honest and say that I am doubtful that you could effectively treat arthritis simply just with the help of CBT. It is, after all, still a condition that results in pain because it’s actually physically afflicting the body.
So if we are to consider CBT for the treatment of arthritis, it needs to supplement conventional treatments for all patients, and not just those at risk of depression.