Publications by authors named "Volen Z Ivanov"

13 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

ACT-enhanced group behavior therapy for trichotillomania and skin-picking disorder: A feasibility study.

J Clin Psychol 2021 Jul 3;77(7):1537-1555. Epub 2021 May 3.

Centre for Psychiatry Research, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, and Stockholm Health Care Services, Region Stockholm, Sweden.

Objective: To evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of ACT-enhanced Group Behavior Therapy (AEGBT) for mixed diagnosis groups including patients with trichotillomania (TTM) and skin-picking disorder (SPD) in routine psychiatric care.

Method: Adult patients (N = 40) with TTM and/or SPD received 10 weeks of AEGBT followed by five booster sessions. The primary outcome measure for TTM was the Massachusetts General Hospital Hairpulling Scale (MGH-HPS) and for SPD the Skin Picking Scale-Revised (SPS-R), assessed at posttreatment and at booster sessions.

Results: Results showed significant reductions in hair pulling and skin-picking severity from baseline to posttreatment and large effect sizes at posttreatment. Improvements remained significant at the 12-month follow-up for patients with SPD, but not for patients with TTM. Group attendance was high and few patients dropped out from treatment. The group format enabled therapists to see 25% more patients compared with an individual format.

Conclusion: The results provide initial support for the feasibility and efficacy of an adapted treatment approach for TTM and SPD.
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July 2021

Sudden Gains in Internet-Based Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

Behav Ther 2020 09 26;51(5):753-763. Epub 2019 Nov 26.

Centre for Psychiatry Research, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet; Stockholm Health Care Services, Stockholm County Council, Stockholm. Electronic address:

Sudden gains have been associated with better short- and long-term treatment outcomes in a number of psychiatric disorders. However, no studies to date have evaluated sudden gains in body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). We used data from a previous randomized controlled trial evaluating the efficacy of an Internet-based cognitive-behavior treatment (CBT) for BDD. The sample consisted of 47 adults diagnosed with BDD. We compared the treatment outcomes of sudden gainers vs. gradual gainers (i.e., treatment responders with no sudden gains) and non-sudden gainers (i.e., gradual gainers plus nonresponders) at posttreatment and 3, 12, and 24 months after the end of the treatment. Twelve (25.5%) participants experienced a sudden gain. Compared to non-sudden gainers and to gradual gainers, sudden gainers showed significantly larger improvements on the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale modified for BDD at posttreatment (g = 1.23 and g = .91, respectively), and at 3-month (g = 1.23 and g = 1.00, respectively), 12-month (g = 1.12 and g = .91, respectively), and 24-month follow-up (g = 1.11 and g = .97, respectively). This translated into higher rates of treatment responders and remitters in the sudden gainers across all time points. The occurrence of sudden gains in Internet-based CBT for BDD is associated with favorable short- and long-term treatment outcomes. This suggests that a sudden improvement during the treatment could be a marker of good prognosis, while non-sudden-including gradual-gainers are more likely to need continued support or booster sessions. Early identification of patients who are not progressing as expected and subsequent tailoring of the delivered intervention has the potential to improve treatment outcomes in this group.
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September 2020

Predictors of remission from body dysmorphic disorder after internet-delivered cognitive behavior therapy: a machine learning approach.

BMC Psychiatry 2020 05 19;20(1):247. Epub 2020 May 19.

Centre for Psychiatry Research, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska University Hospital, Karolinska Institutet, M46, SE-141 86, Huddinge, Sweden.

Background: Previous attempts to identify predictors of treatment outcomes in body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) have yielded inconsistent findings. One way to increase precision and clinical utility could be to use machine learning methods, which can incorporate multiple non-linear associations in prediction models.

Methods: This study used a random forests machine learning approach to test if it is possible to reliably predict remission from BDD in a sample of 88 individuals that had received internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy for BDD. The random forest models were compared to traditional logistic regression analyses.

Results: Random forests correctly identified 78% of participants as remitters or non-remitters at post-treatment. The accuracy of prediction was lower in subsequent follow-ups (68, 66 and 61% correctly classified at 3-, 12- and 24-month follow-ups, respectively). Depressive symptoms, treatment credibility, working alliance, and initial severity of BDD were among the most important predictors at the beginning of treatment. By contrast, the logistic regression models did not identify consistent and strong predictors of remission from BDD.

Conclusions: The results provide initial support for the clinical utility of machine learning approaches in the prediction of outcomes of patients with BDD.

Trial Registration: ID: NCT02010619.
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May 2020

Targeting excessive worry with internet-based extinction therapy: a randomised controlled trial with mediation analysis and economical evaluation.

Psychol Med 2020 Apr 28:1-11. Epub 2020 Apr 28.

Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Division of Psychology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Background: Excessive worry is a common phenomenon. Our research group has previously developed an online intervention for excessive worry based on operant principles of extinction (IbET; internet-based extinction therapy) and tested it against a waiting-list. The aim of this study was to evaluate IbET against an active control comparator (CTRL).

Methods: A 10-week parallel participant blind randomised controlled trial with health-economical evaluation and mediation analyses. Participants (N = 311) were randomised (ratio 4.5:4.5:1) to IbET, to CTRL (an internet-based stress-management training program) or to waiting-list. The nation-wide trial included self-referred adults with excessive worry. The primary outcome was change in worry assessed with the Penn State Worry Questionnaire from baseline to 10 weeks.

Results: IbET had greater reductions in worry compared to CTRL [-3.6 point difference, (95% CI -2.4 to -4.9)] and also a significantly larger degree of treatment responders [63% v. 51%; risk ratio = 1.24 (95% CI 1.01-1.53)]. Both IbET and CTRL made large reductions in worry compared to waiting-list and effects were sustained up to 1 year. Treatment credibility, therapist attention, compliance and working alliance were equal between IbET and CTRL. Data attrition was 4% at the primary endpoint. The effects of IbET were mediated by the hypothesized causal mechanism (reduced thought suppression) but not by competing mediators. Health-economical evaluation indicated that IbET had a 99% chance of being cost-effective compared to CTRL given societal willingness to pay of 1000€.

Conclusions: IbET is more effective than active comparator to treat excessive worry. Replication and extensions to real-world setting are warranted.
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April 2020

The developmental origins of hoarding disorder in adolescence: a longitudinal clinical interview study following an epidemiological survey.

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2021 Mar 18;30(3):415-425. Epub 2020 Apr 18.

Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Centre for Psychiatry Research, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm Health Care Services, Stockholm County Council, Karolinska University Hospital, SE 171 76, Huddinge, Sweden.

Hoarding disorder (HD) is hypothesized to originate in childhood/adolescence but little is known about the presentation of hoarding symptoms in youth and their natural history. In this longitudinal study, we tracked and conducted in-depth psychiatric interviews with twins who participated in an epidemiological survey and screened positive on a measure of hoarding symptoms at age 15. Twins screening positive for clinically significant hoarding symptoms at age 15 (n = 42), their co-twins (n = 33), a group of screen negative twins (n = 49), and their parents underwent a clinical assessment a median of 3 years after the initial screening. The assessment included psychiatric screening, hoarding symptoms and cognitions, in-home or photographic assessment of clutter levels, parental accommodation and familial burden. None of the participants had significant levels of clutter at follow-up and thus did not meet strict criteria for HD. However, twins meeting partial criteria (i.e., DSM-5 criteria A and B) for HD (n = 28) had more psychiatric disorders and scored significantly higher on all measures of hoarding symptoms including researcher-rated levels of clutter in their homes, compared to twins who did not meet partial criteria for HD (n = 46). As currently defined in DSM-5, HD may be rare in young people. A non-negligible proportion of young people who were screen positive on hoarding symptoms at age 15 had substantial hoarding symptoms and other psychopathology at follow-up. Whether and how many of these individuals will develop full-blown HD is unknown but the results offer unique insights about the probable origins of HD in adolescence.
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March 2021

Long-term outcome of therapist-guided internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy for body dysmorphic disorder (BDD-NET): a naturalistic 2-year follow-up after a randomised controlled trial.

BMJ Open 2019 01 15;9(1):e024307. Epub 2019 Jan 15.

Centre for Psychiatry Research, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Objectives: Most patients with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) do not receive evidence-based treatment. A randomised controlled trial (RCT) has found that a therapist-guided internet-based cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) programme for BDD (BDD-NET) can be delivered safely via the internet with significant improvements in BDD symptom severity in the short term. The purpose of this study was to evaluate if the therapeutic gains of BDD-NET are maintained 2 years after treatment.

Setting: Academic medical centre.

Participants: A naturalistic 2-year follow-up study of the 88 self-referred adult outpatients with a diagnosis of BDD that had received BDD-NET within the context of the RCT.

Primary And Secondary Outcomes: The primary outcome was the BDD-Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (YBOCS). Responder status was defined as a ≥30% reduction in symptoms. Remission was defined as no longer meeting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition criteria for BDD. Secondary outcomes included measures of depression, global functioning and quality of life.

Results: The efficacy of BDD-NET was sustained long- term, with further improvements observed on the BDD-YBOCS during the follow-up period. At follow-up, 69% (95% CI 57% to 80%) were classified as responders and 56% (95% CI 43% to 69%) were in remission. Gains on depressive symptoms and global functioning were also sustained but not quality of life. A majority of participants reported that the main reason for seeking help for their BDD was the possibility to access the treatment from home.

Conclusion: BDD-NET is an effective treatment for BDD, and the patients' gains are maintained in the long term. BDD-NET has the potential to increase access to CBT and may lower the threshold for BDD sufferers to seek help in the first place.

Trial Registration Number: NCT02010619.
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January 2019

Prevalence and heritability of body dysmorphic symptoms in adolescents and young adults: a population-based nationwide twin study.

Psychol Med 2018 12 28;48(16):2740-2747. Epub 2018 Feb 28.

Department of Clinical Neuroscience,Karolinska Institutet, Centre for Psychiatry Research,Stockholm,Sweden.

Background: Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) usually begins during adolescence but little is known about the prevalence, etiology, and patterns of comorbidity in this age group. We investigated the prevalence of BDD symptoms in adolescents and young adults. We also report on the relative importance of genetic and environmental influences on BDD symptoms, and the risk for co-existing psychopathology.

Methods: Prevalence of BDD symptoms was determined by a validated cut-off on the Dysmorphic Concerns Questionnaire (DCQ) in three population-based twin cohorts at ages 15 (n = 6968), 18 (n = 3738), and 20-28 (n = 4671). Heritability analysis was performed using univariate model-fitting for the DCQ. The risk for co-existing psychopathology was expressed as odds ratios (OR).

Results: The prevalence of clinically significant BDD symptoms was estimated to be between 1 and 2% in the different cohorts, with a significantly higher prevalence in females (1.3-3.3%) than in males (0.2-0.6%). The heritability of body dysmorphic concerns was estimated to be 49% (95% CI 38-54%) at age 15, 39% (95% CI 30-46) at age 18, and 37% (95% CI 29-42) at ages 20-28, with the remaining variance being due to non-shared environment. ORs for co-existing neuropsychiatric and alcohol-related problems ranged from 2.3 to 13.2.

Conclusions: Clinically significant BDD symptoms are relatively common in adolescence and young adulthood, particularly in females. The low occurrence of BDD symptoms in adolescent boys may indicate sex differences in age of onset and/or etiological mechanisms. BDD symptoms are moderately heritable in young people and associated with an increased risk for co-existing neuropsychiatric and alcohol-related problems.
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December 2018

Enhancing group cognitive-behavioral therapy for hoarding disorder with between-session Internet-based clinician support: A feasibility study.

J Clin Psychol 2018 07 7;74(7):1092-1105. Epub 2018 Feb 7.

Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Centre for Psychiatry Research, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Objective: Hoarding disorder (HD) is difficult to treat. In an effort to increase efficacy and engagement in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), we developed and evaluated a novel intervention comprising group CBT combined with between-session Internet-based clinician support for people with HD.

Method: Twenty participants with HD received group CBT combined with an Internet-support system enabling therapist-participant communication between group sessions.

Results: The treatment was associated with a significant reduction on the Saving Inventory-Revised (SI-R) and a large effect size (Cohen's d = 1.57) was found at posttreatment. Treatment gains were maintained at the 3-month follow-up. Group attendance was high and no participants dropped out from treatment prematurely. Between-session motivational support from the therapist was most frequently mentioned as the main strength of the system.

Conclusion: The results of this study support adding Internet-based clinician support to group CBT for HD to increase treatment adherence and, potentially, improve the overall efficacy of CBT.
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July 2018

Heritability of hoarding symptoms across adolescence and young adulthood: A longitudinal twin study.

PLoS One 2017 28;12(6):e0179541. Epub 2017 Jun 28.

Centre for Psychiatry Research, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Background: Twin studies of hoarding symptoms indicate low to moderate heritability during adolescence and considerably higher heritability in older samples, suggesting dynamic developmental etiological effects. The aim of the current study was to estimate the relative contribution of additive genetic and environmental effects to hoarding symptoms during adolescence and young adulthood and to estimate the sources of stability and change of hoarding symptoms during adolescence.

Methods: Univariate model-fitting was conducted in three cohorts of twins aged 15 (n = 7,905), 18 (n = 2,495) and 20-28 (n = 6,218). Longitudinal analyses were conducted in a subsample of twins for which data on hoarding symptoms was available at both age 15 and 18 (n = 1,701).

Results: Heritability estimates for hoarding symptoms at ages 15, 18 and 20-28 were 41% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 36-45%), 31% (95% CI: 22-39%) and 29% (95% CI: 24-34%) respectively. Quantitative sex-differences emerged in twins aged 15 at which point the heritability in boys was 33% (95% CI: 22-41%) and 17% (95% CI: 0-36%) in girls. Shared environmental effects played a negligible role across all samples with the exception of girls aged 15 where they accounted for a significant proportion of the variance (22%; 95% CI 6-36%). The longitudinal bivariate analyses revealed a significant phenotypic correlation of hoarding symptoms between ages 15 and 18 (0.40; 95% CI: 0.36-0.44) and a strong but imperfect genetic correlation (0.75; 95% CI: 0.57-0.94). The bivariate heritability was estimated to 65% (95% CI: 50-79%).

Conclusions: Hoarding symptoms are heritable from adolescence throughout young adulthood, although heritability appears to slightly decrease over time. Shared environmental effects contribute to hoarding symptoms only in girls at age 15. The stability of hoarding symptoms between ages 15 and 18 is largely explained by genetic factors, while non-shared environmental factors primarily have a time-specific effect. The findings indicate that dynamic developmental etiological effects may be operating across the life span.
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September 2017

Acceptance-Based Exposure Therapy for Body Dysmorphic Disorder: A Pilot Study.

Behav Ther 2015 Jul 21;46(4):423-31. Epub 2015 May 21.

Stockholm University.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is an often severe, chronic, and disabling disorder, and although some controlled trials of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) have shown efficacy, the body of evidence is still limited. The condition is generally considered difficult to treat, and further research to determine the effectiveness of psychological treatments for BDD is needed. The present study is the first to evaluate an acceptance-based therapy for BDD. In total, 21 patients received a 12-week group treatment consisting of weekly sessions of psychoeducation, acceptance and defusion practice, and exposure exercises to foster acceptance of internal discomfort and to strengthen the patients' committed purposeful actions. The primary outcome was BDD symptomatology (measured on the BDD-YBOCS) assessed by a psychiatrist before and after treatment and at 6months follow-up. The secondary outcomes were self-rated BDD symptoms, psychological flexibility, depressive symptoms, quality of life, and disability. Reductions in BDD symptomatology from pre- to posttreatment were significant and showed a large effect size, d=1.93 (95% CI 0.82-3.04). At posttreatment, 68% of the participants showed clinically significant improvement in the primary outcome variable. Treatment gains were maintained at 6months follow-up. The treatment also resulted in significant improvements in all secondary outcomes. The dropout rate was low; 90.5% of the participants completed treatment. This study suggests that acceptance-based exposure therapy may be an efficacious and acceptable treatment for BDD that warrants further investigation in larger controlled trials.
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July 2015

Therapist-guided, Internet-based cognitive-behavioural therapy for body dysmorphic disorder (BDD-NET): a feasibility study.

BMJ Open 2014 Sep 25;4(9):e005923. Epub 2014 Sep 25.

Division of Psychiatry, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Objectives: Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). However, most sufferers do not have access to this treatment. One way to increase access to CBT is to administer treatment remotely via the Internet. This study piloted a novel therapist-supported, Internet-based CBT program for BDD (BDD-NET).

Design: Uncontrolled clinical trial.

Participants: Patients (N=23) were recruited through self-referral and assessed face to face at a clinic specialising in obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. Suitable patients were offered secure access to BDD-NET.

Intervention: BDD-NET is a 12-week treatment program based on current psychological models of BDD that includes psychoeducation, functional analysis, cognitive restructuring, exposure and response prevention, and relapse prevention modules. A dedicated therapist provides active guidance and feedback throughout the entire process.

Main Outcome Measure: The clinician-administered Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale for BDD (BDD-YBOCS). Symptom severity was assessed pretreatment, post-treatment and at the 3-month follow-up.

Results: BDD-NET was deemed highly acceptable by patients and led to significant improvements on the BDD-YBOCS (p=<0.001) with a large within-group effect size (Cohen's d=2.01, 95% CI 1.05 to 2.97). At post-treatment, 82% of the patients were classified as responders (defined as≥30% improvement on the BDD-YBOCS). These gains were maintained at the 3-month follow-up. Secondary outcome measures of depression, global functioning and quality of life also showed significant improvements with moderate to large effect sizes. On average, therapists spent 10 min per patient per week providing support.

Conclusions: The results suggest that BDD-NET has the potential to greatly increase access to CBT, at least for low-risk individuals with moderately severe BDD symptoms and reasonably good insight. A randomised controlled trial of BDD-NET is warranted.

Trial Registration Number: registration ID NCT01850433.
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September 2014

Prevalence, comorbidity and heritability of hoarding symptoms in adolescence: a population based twin study in 15-year olds.

PLoS One 2013 10;8(7):e69140. Epub 2013 Jul 10.

Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Background: Hoarding Disorder (HD) is often assumed to be an 'old age' problem, but many individuals diagnosed with HD retrospectively report first experiencing symptoms in childhood or adolescence. We examined the prevalence, comorbidity and etiology of hoarding symptoms in adolescence.

Methods: To determine the presence of clinically significant hoarding symptoms, a population-based sample of 15-year old twins (N = 3,974) completed the Hoarding Rating Scale-Self Report. Co-occurring Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) were estimated from parental report. Model-fitting analyses divided hoarding symptom scores into additive genetic, shared, and non-shared environmental effects.

Results: The prevalence of clinically significant hoarding symptoms was 2% (95% CI 1.6-2.5%), with a significantly higher prevalence in girls than boys. Exclusion of the clutter criterion (as adolescents do not have control over their environment) increased the prevalence rate to 3.7% (95% CI 3.1-4.3%). Excessive acquisition was reported by 30-40% among those with clinically significant hoarding symptoms. The prevalence of co-occurring OCD (2.9%), ASD (2.9%) and ADHD (10.0%) was comparable in hoarding and non-hoarding teenagers. Model-fitting analyses suggested that, in boys, additive genetic (32%; 95% CI 13-44%) and non-shared environmental effects accounted for most of the variance. In contrast, among girls, shared and non-shared environmental effects explained most of the variance, while additive genetic factors played a negligible role.

Conclusions: Hoarding symptoms are relatively prevalent in adolescents, particularly in girls, and cause distress and/or impairment. Hoarding was rarely associated with other common neurodevelopmental disorders, supporting its DSM-5 status as an independent diagnosis. The relative importance of genetic and shared environmental factors for hoarding differed across sexes. The findings are suggestive of dynamic developmental genetic and environmental effects operating from adolescence onto adulthood.
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March 2014