Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety-related disorders is associated with improved outcomes compared with control conditions up to one year after treatment completion, according to new research published in JAMA Psychiatry.

“About 1 out of 10 individuals have an anxiety-related disorder at some point in their lives. Having such a disorder often seriously impairs daily functioning and quality of life. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is currently the treatment of choice for anxiety-related disorders, but its long-term effectiveness is relatively unknown,” said study author Evi-Anne van Dis, a PhD candidate at Utrecht University.

After analyzing data from 69 randomized clinical trials that included 4,118 participants, the researchers found that CBT was associated with moderate symptom reductions up to 12 months after treatment.

“​Our meta-analysis has shown that CBT for anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder is generally effective up to one year following treatment completion. Yet, its effectiveness on the longer term and relapse rates remain unclear,” van Dis told PsyPost.

​”We should bear in mind that our findings are average effects. This means that CBT may generally work, but not necessarily for all people. Future research should clarify who does and who does not benefit.”

After 12 months, effects were small to medium for generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder, but remained large for PTSD.

More high-quality randomized clinical trials on long-term treatment effects are needed, as only a few studies conducted follow-up assessments after one year. Van Dis and her colleagues were also “surprised to find only a very few number of studies that addressed the long-term effects of CBT for obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

The study, “Long-term Outcomes of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety-Related Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis“, was authored by Eva A.M. van Dis, Suzanne C. van Veen, Muriel A. Hagenaars, Neeltje M. Batelaan, Claudi L. H. Bockting, Rinske M. van den Heuvel, Pim Cuijpers, and Iris M. Engelhard.