CBT as a Treatment for Diabetes Neuropathies.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a treatment actively used to treat mental health disorders, such as depression. It teaches patients valuable skills needed in order to tackle the tasks and issues faced in every day life. It is aimed at changing the thoughts that may be maladaptive for patients, and to help to reduce behaviours that may support the illness they face.

Now researchers in America have implicated CBT as a way to relieve pain for those with diabetic neuropathies, (this comes from Boston University School of Medicine and VA Boston Healthcare System). The study they conducted, which was the first of its kind, examined the use of CBT to treat patients with type II diabetes. Neuropathies develop when hyperglycemia is left untreated – this causes nerve damage which can be painful, with burning sensations in the hands and feet. Headaches and dizziness are also a side effect of the medication used to treat neuropathies.

John D. Otis, PhD, and colleagues wanted to investigate whether CBT could help those suffering from painful diabetic neuropathies. They compared patients going through CBT to those who received the normal treatment for the symptoms.

“Participants attended 11, hour-long CBT sessions, which focused on teaching participants relaxation techniques and how to identify and challenge thoughts that contribute to pain. In addition, participants were taught how to keep active and plan enjoyable activities such as exercise, going for walks or having dinner with friends.” – Medical News Today.

It was found, at the follow up four months later, those who received CBT to treat the pain of their neuropathies reported feeling less pain and less interference in their day to day lives. This was compared to the participants completing normal treatment.

They suggest that their study shows that patients suffering from type II diabetes, and the pain of neuropathies, do not need to rely on medication to help to relieve their symptoms. It may also be more effective in the long term for coping with pain.

Otis also states that this study adds to the “growing body of literature demonstrating that CBT is an effective psychological treatment approach for chronic pain”.


Written by: Philippa Berry

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Published on: 6th March 2013

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