The Changeability and Predictive Value of Dysfunctional Cognitions in Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Chronic Tinnitus
Background: Multidimensional tinnitus models describe dysfunctional cognitions as a complicating factor in the process of tinnitus habituation. However, this concept has rarely been investigated in previous research. Purpose: The present study investigated the effects of two cognitive-behavioral treatments on dysfunctional tinnitus-related cognitions in patients with chronic tinnitus. Furthermore, dysfunctional cognitions were examined as possible predictors of the therapeutic effect on tinnitus distress. Method: A total of 128 patients with chronic tinnitus were randomly assigned to either an Internet-delivered guided self-help treatment (Internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy, ICBT), a conventional face-to-face group therapy (cognitive–behavioral group therapy, GCBT), or an active control group in the form of a web-based discussion forum (DF). To assess tinnitus-related dysfunctional thoughts, the Tinnitus Cognitions Scale (T-Cog) was used at pre- and post-assessment, as well as at the 6- and 12-month follow-up. Results: Multivariate ANOVAs with post hoc tests revealed significant and comparable reductions of dysfunctional tinnitus-related cognitions for both treatments (GCBT and ICBT), which remained stable over a 6- and 12-month period. Negative correlations were found between the catastrophic subscale of the T-Cog and therapy outcome for ICBT, but not for GCBT. This means a higher degree of catastrophic thinking at baseline was associated with lower benefit from ICBT directly after the treatment. Hierarchical regression analysis confirmed catastrophizing as a predictor of poorer therapy outcome regarding emotional tinnitus distress in ICBT. No associations were detected in the follow-up assessments. Conclusion: Both forms of CBT are successful in reducing dysfunctional tinnitus-related cognitions. Catastrophizing significantly predicted a less favorable outcome regarding emotional tinnitus distress in ICBT. Clinical implications of these results are described. Dysfunctional cognitions could be targeted more intensively in therapy and in future research on tinnitus.