Background Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is prevalent in children, adolescents and adults. It can occur alone or in comorbidity with other disorders. A broad range of psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) have been developed for the treatment of PTSD. Aim Through quantitative meta-analysis, we aimed to compare the efficacy of CBT and EMDR: (i) relieving the post-traumatic symptoms, and (ii) alleviating anxiety and depression, in patients with PTSD. Methods We systematically searched EMBASE, Medline and Cochrane central register of controlled trials (CENTRAL) for articles published between 1999 and December 2017. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) that compare CBT and EMDR in PTSD patients were included for quantitative meta-analysis using RevMan Version 5. Results Fourteen studies out of 714 were finally eligible. Meta-analysis of 11 studies (n = 547) showed that EMDR is better than CBT in reducing post-traumatic symptoms [SDM (95% CI) = -0.43 (-0.73 - -0.12), p = 0.006]. However, meta-analysis of four studies (n = 186) at three-month follow-up revealed no statistically significant difference [SDM (95% CI) = -0.21 (-0.50 - 0.08), p = 0.15]. The EMDR was also better than CBT in reducing anxiety [SDM (95% CI) = -0.71 (-1.21 - -0.21), p = 0.005]. Unfortunately, there was no difference between CBT and EMDR in reducing depression [SDM (95% CI) = -0.21 (-0.44 - 0.02), p = 0.08]. Conclusion The results of this meta-analysis suggested that EMDR is better than CBT in reducing post-traumatic symptoms and anxiety. However, there was no difference reported in reducing depression. Large population randomized trials with longer follow-up are recommended to build conclusive evidence.
Keywords: cognitive behavioral therapy (cbt); eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (emdr); post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd).