Worriers wanted for online anxiety treatment study

Published 13 May 2008

AnxietyDoes effective treatment of anxiety require $180-an-hour visits to a therapist or could a free website provide the needed help? That’s the question being asked by psychologists at the University of New England in a new study to assess the effectiveness of a Web-based treatment for persistent worry and anxiety.

Persistent worry and anxiety involves excessive, uncontrollable worrying about everyday things – often out of all proportion with the actual source of the worry. The problem is relatively common, affecting as much as 4 per cent of the general population. Severe worriers may suffer a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, muscle tension and insomnia.

“There are worriers, and there are worriers,” said Dr John Malouff, the psychologist overseeing the study. “The people we’re looking for have worried about a wide variety of things for at least six months.”

Dr Malouff and his colleagues are seeking about 150 participants for the study, which will require a couple of hours involvement each week for ten weeks.

Participants must also be 18 years or older and have reliable access to the Internet.

The techniques for overcoming anxiety suggested by the website are much the same as those used in a clinical setting, Dr Malouff said.

“These are all the things I would do with a face-to-face client,” Dr Malouff said, “and exactly the kinds of things recommended by the world’s leading experts on this disorder.”

The new study follows on from previous research at UNE on the efficacy of self-help books for treating psychological disorders. Dr Malouff said he hoped that by making psychological treatment cheaper and more accessible, more people would be able to get the help they need for their problems.

People interested in finding out more about the study should contact research associate Dr Navjot Bhullar at nbhullar@une.edu.au.