Cognitive behavioural interventions for depression in chronic neurological conditions: a systematic review

J Psychosom Res. 2015 May;78(5):411-419. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2015.02.012. Epub 2015 Feb 26.


Objective: Chronic neurological conditions (CNCs) affect over one million people in the UK alone. Individuals with CNCs endure an increased prevalence of comorbid depression and anxiety. Poor mental health exacerbates the cost of the treatment and management of CNCs. CBT is recommended for the treatment of depression. However the application of CBT to individuals with CNCs may be limited by disease characteristics (e.g. mobility issues restricting therapy attendance and reducing engagement with behavioural activation, as well as difficulties challenging the veracity of disease-related negative thoughts that may reflect accurate appraisals). The objective of this review is to assess the clinical effectiveness of cognitive and behavioural interventions for depressive symptoms in individuals with non-acquired, medically explained CNCs.

Data sources: Searches of The Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, PubMed, and PsychINFO were conducted.

Results: All studies suggested that CBT is an effective treatment for depression comorbid to CNCs, however when CBT was compared to an active therapy control condition, between group differences were unstable.

Conclusion: CBT has promise for the treatment for depression in such conditions; however treatment protocols and outcome measures should be adapted for this population. Future trials should control for non-specific effects of therapy and, as much as possible, introduce blinding into methodologies.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; CBT; Depression; Epilepsy; Multiple sclerosis; Parkinson's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy* / methods
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Nervous System Diseases / complications*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Treatment Outcome