Preliminary studies have suggested that balneotherapy (BT) is an effective and well-tolerated treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and psychotropic medication withdrawal syndrome. We carried out a study in 4 spa resorts to assess the efficacy of BT in GAD.
We compared BT to paroxetine in terms of efficacy and safety in a randomized multicentre study lasting 8 weeks. Patients meeting the diagnostic criteria of GAD (DSM-IV) were recruited. Assessments were conducted using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety (HAM-A) and other scales, by a specifically trained and independent physician. The primary outcome measure was the change in the total HAM-A score between baseline and week 8.
A total of 237 outpatients were enrolled in four centres; 117 were assigned randomly to BT and 120 to paroxetine. The mean change in HAM-A scores showed an improvement in both groups with a significant advantage of BT compared to paroxetine (−12.0 vs −8.7; p < 0.001). Remission and sustained response rates were also significantly higher in the BT group (respectively 19% vs 7% and 51% vs 28%).
BT is an interesting way of treating GAD. Due to its safety profile it could also be tested in resistant forms of generalized anxiety and in patients who do not tolerate or are reluctant to use pharmacothérapies.