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Research projects - Working group and special outpatient clinic for anxiety disorders

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Empowering Health: Electromyostimulation-Whole-Body-Workout

Physical activity is extremely important for physical and mental health. Regular exercise e.g. promotes blood circulation, nerve growth and fat metabolism. Sport also reduces stress and provides positive psychological effects reagrding mental strain or mental disorders (such as depression or anxiety disorders). Unfortunately, exercise is on average far too rarely implemented. A 20-minute full-body workout using electromyostimulation (EMS) could therefore provide an opportunity to achieve results comparable to conventional strength training in less time and with little subjective effort. Accordingly, we would like to use this method in the context of various studies and investigate to what extent the psychological state of the participants can be improved by whole-body EMS training. Changes in heart rate and muscle strength as a result of the EMS training will also be examined in this project.

Contact: email to the study team

Project management: Prof. Dr. Andreas Ströhle

Supported by:

  • Sonnenfeldstiftung (scholarship)
  • Robert-Enke-Stiftung (scholarship)
  • miha-bodytec (provides EMS-devices)

Physical activity as a treatment for agoraphobia and panic disorder

People with agoraphobia and/or panic disorder already have very effective treatment options in the form of behavioral exposure therapy at their disposal. Although generally a high efficacy is observed, so far some patients only insufficiently profit from this intervention. That is why we are searching for options to further increase the efficacy of exposure treatment. Physical activity seems to be a promising approach. Its health-promoting effect in general as well as regarding anxiety disorders has been proven often. In our study the patients took part in a 30-minute physical activity intervention prior to expositions. The influence on therapeutic success and neurobiological correlates of increased perceived stress were analyzed using questionnaires and saliva samples.

Project management: Prof. Dr. Andreas Ströhle

"Outreach therapy" for patients with severe agoraphobia (ExIT TO HoPE)

People who can’t leave their apartments on their own anymore, due to severe agoraphobia, are constantly dependent on the help of other people to manage their everyday life. As part of this "outreach therapy" the patients will be visited by their psychotherapists at home and the psychotherapy will take place there. With the help of a treatment manual that was specifically designed for this patient group their ability to leave the house is supposed to be restored in a timely manner so that they can continue their psychotherapy within the framework of standard outpatient psychotherapeutic care. The aim of this project is to test as well as establish this manual in practice, thereby broadening the outpatient treatment options for people with this specific set of symptoms.

Project management: Dr. Jens Plag

Supported by:

Yoga against panic disorder and/or agoraphobia (YOPA)

While cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy are the preferred treatment methods for panic disorder with/without agoraphobia not all patients are able to go into full remission with this treatment. Additionally, long waiting periods to get therapy appointments, latency of effect and non- or partial response are other reasons why complementary approaches are needed. Yoga, an integrative system that includes body- and mind-focused practices, has not only become popular among the general population. In fact, there are already indicators from areas of medicine and especially psychiatry that Yoga has a therapeutic effect in the treatment of mental illness. As part of this project we will implement a Yoga-program that was specifically developed for anxiety disorders. It consists of dynamic movements, body positions as well as breathing regulation and relaxation exercises. The 8-week Yoga-program will be evaluated regarding its effect on symptoms of panic disoder and/or agoraphobia and analyzed regarding changes of biological stress responses.

Project management: Prof. Dr. Andreas Ströhle

Physical activity as a treatment for performance anxiety (PACE)

Performance anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses among musicians and can be a threat to their employment, yet still there are currently no acutely effective, drug-free treatment options. As part of this project we investigate the effects of a 12-day exercise program on the symptoms of performance anxiety in professional musicians. Intervention-related changes in various biological systems that are associated with (acute) stress will additionally be collected.

Project management: Dr. Jens Plag; Prof. Dr. Alexander Schmidt (Berliner Centrum für Musikermedizin)

Supported by:

Psychometric characterizations of patients with cardiac arrhythmias (Be-PART)

Heart diseases often go hand-in-hand with stress-associated mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. Yet, up until now, little is known about whether patients with cardiac arrhythmias frequently exhibit certain psychological risk factors for the development of stress-reactive mental illnesses and how these risk constellations potentially effect the success of the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias. In this prospective study, patients with cardiac arrhythmias will be examined in regard to their psychological "risk profile" and links with the effectiveness of an electrophysiological and/or drug treatment for cardiac arrhythmias will be assessed before and after cardiological treatment.
In addition to these psychometric aspects, different biological parameters of increased stress levels will be collected.

Project management: Dr. Jens Plag; Dr. Martin Huemer (Clinic for Cardiology, Charité – Campus Benjamin Franklin)

Health services utilization behavior of former soldiers of the Bundeswehr (Veterans) with metal illnesses caused by deployment

Qualitative and quantitative methods will be used to study the health services utilization behavior of former soldiers of the Bundeswehr who have mental illnesses caused by their deployment. The goal is to reach a better understanding regarding the usage behavior of health services, particularly in the context of the civilian care system.
Additionally, the health-related quality of life as well as adjustment and reintegration services for former soldiers and their families will be obtained.

Project management: Prof. Dr. Andreas Ströhle

Sponsored by the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support

Equidae-supported interventions for veterans with therapy-refractory trauma-related disorders (EVTT)

We examine the use of horse-assisted psychotherapy as per EAGALA for veterans of the Bundeswehr with therapy-refractory trauma-related disorders caused by deployment.
Psychological variables as well as physiological parameters will be collected regarding both the human and the horse.

Project management: Prof. Dr. Andreas Ströhle

In cooperation with the Evangelische Seelsorge der Bundeswehr

PROTECT-AD – Optimized psychotherapy for anxiety disorders

In the therapy project PROTECT-AD the modes of action of established psychotherapeutic treatment methods as well as the biological basis of anxiety disorders will be studied. To that end, seven university centers that specialize in the psychotherapeutic treatment of anxiety disorders – among them the anxiety outpatient clinic of the Charité Berlin - have teamed up. Using psychophysiological, imaging and genetic methods, it will be investigated how our thinking, feeling and behavior as well as biological processes in our body change during the temporally condensed therapy of an anxiety disorder.   

Project management (Study site Berlin): Prof. Dr. Andreas Ströhle

Prof. Dr. Thomas Fydrich (HU Berlin)
M. Sc. Sophie Meska
Dipl.-Psych. Isabel Alt