The BEWARE project studies the effect of a body awareness training in the treatment of wearing-off related anxiety in patients with Parkinson’s disease. This project is mainly conducted at the department of anatomy and neuropsychiatry at Amsterdam UMC/VUmc, in cooperation with the department of psychiatry. Prof. Odile van den Heuvel is one of the project leaders and Ires Gielen is one of the PhD students on this project.

The wearing-off phenomenon in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a complication of prolonged levodopa usage. During this phenomenon, motor symptoms such as rigidity and freezing re-emerge. This is often accompanied by non-motor symptoms, including anxiety, the so-called wearing-off related anxiety (WRA). Current treatment options are limited and typically focus on either the physical or mental aspects of wearing-off. An integrated approach seems warranted in order to optimally address the complex reciprocal interactions between these aspects. Also, because wearing-off is eventually inescapable, treatment needs to focus on coping, acceptance, and self-efficacy.

We therefore developed an integrated body awareness intervention, combining principles from physical therapy with acceptance and commitment therapy to teach patients to deal with WRA. This study will investigate whether this new intervention, named BEWARE, is more effective than treatment as usual in increasing self-efficacy. This is a single-blinded randomized controlled trial in 36 PD patients who experience WRA. Subjects will be recruited from the outpatient clinic for movement disorders of the VU University Medical Center. After providing written informed consent, patients will be randomly assigned to an experimental (BEWARE) or treatment-as-usual (physical therapy) group. Clinical assessments will be performed prior to the intervention, directly after the 6-week intervention period, and at 3-month naturalistic follow-up by a blinded investigator not involved in the study. The primary outcome measure is self-efficacy, and secondary outcomes focus on mobility, daily functioning, anxiety, and quality of life. Because wearing-off is an inevitable consequence of levodopa therapy and current treatment options are insufficient, a multidisciplinary intervention that addresses both physical and mental aspects of wearing-off in PD may foster additional benefits for treating WRA in PD patients over mono-disciplinary care alone.