"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Behavioral therapy reduces long-COVID fatigue: study

May 10, 2023 – A brand new study shows that after completing 17 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, fatigue in individuals with Long COVID was significantly lower than in individuals with similar levels of Long COVID fatigue who didn't take part in therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a structured talk therapy approach wherein a trained therapist helps an individual turn out to be aware of their very own perspective and learn to vary their response to situations and challenges.

Led by researchers at Amsterdam University Medical Center, the study followed 114 people within the Netherlands who suffered from severe fatigue for a minimum of three months after a COVID infection. Half of the patients were randomly assigned to receive 17 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy that focused on their fatigue. The other participants received no specific intervention and easily continued their usual treatment for long COVID. The study participants assigned to cognitive behavioral therapy could complete the therapy online or in person.

The researchers tailored the treatment plan to the precise features of fatigue related to Long COVID.

The therapy plan included seven areas:

  1. A disturbed sleep-wake rhythm
  2. Unhelpful beliefs about fatigue
  3. A low or unevenly distributed activity level
  4. Perceived low social support
  5. Problems within the psychological processing of COVID-19
  6. Fears and worries related to COVID
  7. Poor handling of pain

Participants in cognitive behavioral therapy not only reduced their fatigue, but additionally reported fewer problems concentrating, less severe physical symptoms, and improved physical and social functioning. Results were published on Monday within the magazine Clinical infectious diseases.

“Together with the patients, we look at how they can improve their sleep-wake rhythm, for example. We also help them to become more active again with small, safe steps. For example, by taking short walks,” said researcher and professor of medical psychology Dr. Hans Knoop in a opinion.

“After behavioral therapy, patients not only had fewer symptoms, but also functioned better physically and socially,” said Knoop. “These improvements were still present after six months.”

CDC Data shows that 11% of individuals within the US who've ever had COVID reported having Long COVID, which is characterised by the occurrence of virus symptoms over an extended time period. Long COVID is a covered condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The authors noted that their study had limitations that will have affected the outcomes, including that not one of the participants had been hospitalized for COVID. Additionally, all participants self-enrolled in therapy and due to this fact could have been more motivated to take part in therapy than if people had been chosen for the study in one other way.