A study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine offers preliminary support for a meaning-centered therapeutic approach to treating patients with diabetes and depression. The logotherapy intervention was found to lower depressive symptoms, reduce death anxiety, improve hope, and boost medication adherence among patients.
Diabetes is widely diagnosed around the world and rates of the condition are only increasing. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, arises when the body fails to respond properly to insulin and cannot regulate blood sugar. In addition to a range of chronic physical health issues, the condition is associated with an elevated risk of psychological issues including depression and death anxiety.
A team of researchers led by Adele Bahar was motivated to test the effectiveness of psychotherapy among diabetic patients with depression. Specifically, they aimed to investigate an approach called logotherapy. Founded by Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, logotherapy is based on the principle that humans are motivated by the desire to find meaning in life and that meaning can be found even in the most tragic of circumstances. Accordingly, the therapy aims to improve patients’ lives by providing them with tools to help them find their individual purpose.
Bahar and team conducted a controlled study among 40 patients with diabetes and depression. The patients were split into two groups — the experimental group completed ten weekly sessions of logotherapy of 90 minutes each, while the control group received no therapy. Both groups completed baseline and post-experiment assessments of death anxiety, depression, hope, and medication adherence. Blood glucose levels were also measured at both time points.
The logotherapy sessions were conducted in a group setting and began with patients sharing their experiences with anxiety and the problems they were facing. In later sessions, the therapist introduced topics such as readiness for personal growth, self-transcendence, meaning-seeking strategies, and death positivity.
When the researchers compared the two groups, there were measurable differences in outcomes. First, the group who received the logotherapy intervention experienced a reduction in depressive symptoms and death anxiety (i.e., anxieties surrounding thoughts of one’s own death). They also experienced an increase in hope, according to the 48-item Miller’s Hope Scale. Moreover, patients who received logotherapy scored significantly higher in medication adherence compared to the control group, which positively affected their blood glucose levels.
The study authors emphasize that not only did the therapy improve patients’ psychopathology, offering them hope and reducing their depression and anxieties surrounding death, it effectively encouraged the proper use of glucose-controlling medication. Overall, the results suggest that logotherapy can be beneficial for patients with diabetes and depression, and, when used in conjunction with pharmaceutical methods, the therapy can be effective in improving blood glucose levels. Bahar and colleagues suggest that similar interventions be tested among patients with other conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
The study, “Effectiveness of Logotherapy on Death Anxiety, Hope, Depression, and Proper use of Glucose Control Drugs in Diabetic Patients with Depression”, was authored by Adele Bahar, Mobina Shahriary, and Mohsen Fazlali.