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According to a new study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, internet-based cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) may be an effective treatment for individuals with health anxiety. Participants (n=81) in the current study were randomly assigned to either an internet-based CBT group (n=40) or to a control group (an online discussion forum) (n=41). Participants in the CBT group received a 12-week treatment intervention that incorporated mindfulness training (teaching participants to observe their bodily sensations without trying to control them), a 12-module self-help text, and a discussion forum (in which participants could anonymously communicate with other members of the same group.) Participants in the CBT group also had access to a therapist through a secure online system, however there were neither face-to-face nor telephone contacts during the study. Participants in the control condition were encouraged to utilize the discussion forum to discuss their health anxiety and ways of coping with it. At post treatment, results showed that the internet-based CBT group displayed superior improvements over the control group. In fact, two-thirds of participants in the CBT group no longer met criteria for health anxiety. Further, large treatment effects were also maintained at the 6-month follow up. These findings suggest that internet-based CBT for health anxiety may be a promising alternative treatment for individuals without access to face-to-face therapy.

Erik Hedman, Gerhard Andersson, Erik Andersson, Brjann Ljotsson, Christian Ruck, Gordon J. G. Asmundson and Nils Lindefors (2011). “Internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy for severe health anxiety: randomized controlled trial”. The British Journal of Psychiatry.