Here's How Therapy Can Boost Longevity In People With Anxiety

mbg Editorial Assistant By Christina Coughlin
mbg Editorial Assistant
Christina Coughlin is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2019 with a degree in psychology and music.
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The benefits of therapy have been well known for years, but did you know that it can do more than just treat the mind? Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have discovered that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can boost longevity along with treating anxiety in patients.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a common form of psychotherapy, typically used to treat mental disorders. It consists of talk therapy, where the patient interacts with a mental health professional to discuss feelings, emotions, and behaviors. CBT aims for the patient and professional to work together and identify negative thought processes, working through them to change the patient's thinking. 

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So, how is it connected to longevity?

Researchers selected 46 participants who had been diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder to undergo nine weeks of CBT treatment. Participants were instructed to refrain from taking any psychotropic medications, while maintaining their typical levels of exercise throughout the nine weeks to keep from altering the results. Blood samples were taken from each participant at the start of the study prior to the treatment, and then once again after the nine weeks when treatment was finished. 

As predicted, the results showed that anxiety levels were reduced, but researchers also discovered increased telomerase activity in the blood samples. 

Telomeres are a distinct structure in our DNA that are inherently related to aging, as they become slightly shorter every time our cells divide and as we age. Telomerase, however, is an enzyme that slows this process, effectively promoting longevity.

The time span was too short to see changes in telomere length, but the activity of telomerase indicates a push toward increasing longevity by slowing the shortening of telomeres as time goes on. 

While CBT has already been proven as an effective form of treating anxiety, this study has discovered an exciting new benefit, which can hopefully encourage more people with any form of an anxiety disorder to try CBT. Currently, the treatment is only used for about 45% of people suffering from mood and anxiety disorders. 

What's next? 

Researchers are still looking to more studies before confirming a causal link between CBT and aging. Head researcher Kristoffer Månsson, Ph.D., says, "In our interpretation, it means that effective psychological treatment for anxiety can protect the cells against oxidative stress and cellular aging. This is an exciting result that can eventually allow patients to be given effective treatment based on their biological profile. But more studies are needed before we can draw any real conclusions about causality."

In any case, this is a promising new update for anyone suffering from anxiety. Here at mbg, we are always looking for ways to heal the mind, body, and soul in the most natural way possible. 

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