Salud Mental

Comparison of two psychotherapies in cortisol response and their efficacy in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in women victims of intimate partner violence


Beatriz Cerda-De la O
Ana Lilia Cerda-Molina
Marcela Biagini-Alarcón
Lilian Mayagoitia-Novales
Margarita De La Cruz-López
Jesús Alfredo Whaley-Sánchez


Introduction. There is a growing need to implement evidence-based psychological treatments for women victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) who commonly experience stress-related disorders such as anxiety, depression, or suicide risk, as well as altered cortisol reactivity.

Objective. 1. To compare the changes in depressive and anxious symptomatology, quality of life, and cortisol reactivity after two different interventions, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT, based on psychological flexibility) or Interpersonal Therapy (IPT, based on empowerment) in women exposed to IPV. 2. To compare the changes in relation to the presence of suicide thoughts.

Method. A clinical sample of 50 women (ages 21-74) randomly assigned to attend ACT or IPT, completed pre- and post-intervention questionnaires about intimate partner violence, quality of life, depression, anxiety, and measurements of salivary cortisol reactivity (basal, 15, 30, and 45 minutes after a cognitive challenge). We used Generalized Estimating Equation Models for data analysis.

Results. There was a significant improvement post-intervention in all variables, regardless of the type of psychotherapy or the presence of suicide thoughts. Before interventions, women that reported suicide thoughts had severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, worse quality of life, and a cortisol hyper-response profile, in contrast to women without suicide thoughts who had moderate symptoms and no cortisol response. Cortisol response to the cognitive test decreased in all women after both therapies.

Discussion and conclusion. Although different psychological approach, ACT, and IPT effectively improved mental health, quality of life, and changed cortisol reactivity of women exposed to IPV, including women at suicide risk.
Cortisol, psychotherapies, depression, anxiety, intimate partner violence


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