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Online Therapy Effective for Depression and Anxiety, Studies Say

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Online Therapy Effective for Anxiety and Depression, Studies Say anzebizjan/Fotolia

This month, two studies revealed that those suffering from depression and anxiety may benefit from online therapy.

Doctors from the University of Pittsburgh said that "providing an online computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (CCBT) program both alone and in combination with Internet Support Groups (ISG) is a more effective treatment for anxiety and depression than doctors’ usual primary care."

More than 704 depressed and anxious patients were enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh trial between 18 and 75 years of age. They were referred for the trial by their primary care physicians.

The patients were randomized into one of three groups and reevaluated at six months, and again six months after that. These were the three groups:

1) Care manager-guided access to the eight-session Beating the Blues CCBT program

2) Care manager-guided access to both the CCBT program and a password-protected ISG that patients could access 24/7 via smartphone or desktop computer

3) Usual behavioral health care from their primary care physician

Patients randomized to CCBT programs reported significant improvements in their mood and anxiety symptoms. Also, patients who completed more CCBT sessions experienced greater improvement in mood and anxiety symptoms.

The study said, "[A]lthough patients randomized to both CCBT and ISG had similar overall improvements in mood and anxiety symptoms compared to patients randomized to only CCBT, secondary analysis revealed those who engaged more with the ISG tended to experience greater improvements in symptoms."

The preliminary findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) in Hollywood, Florida, according to the UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences.

Another study was conducted by researchers from Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Lüneburg, Germany, and was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

JAMA reported that those "working through a self-help program online can prevent or delay major depression disorder in people who are vulnerable."

The German study recruited 406 people with subthreshold depression. Subthreshold depression can be defined as having many symptoms of depression, but not enough to be diagnosed with a major depressive disorder.

More than 15 years ago, I fell into a deep depression after the death of my father. While researching depression online, I ran across an interview with the late Elizabeth Edwards who said she found solace online through an ISG after the death of her son Wade.

I saw a cognitive behavioral therapist weekly to deal with my depression, but I also found an ISG which was moderated by a therapist and a medical student. The forum mainly offered support and non-medical advice, and it was a non-judgmental venue where I could talk about my feelings and pain.

Like Elizabeth Edwards, I found relief at an ISG.

One free website which offers an interactive program and may help anxiety and depression is called MoodGYM. Here, you will learn skills that can help you cope with these emotions. MoodGYM is based on two programs which have been proven to be successful in preventing and treating depression and anxiety.

These two programs are cognitive behavior therapy and interpersonal therapy. Please note that this website is free, but it isn’t mobile-friendly and you should log on with your computer.

Remember, there is no quick or instant fix or pill that can immediately eliminate depression or anxiety, but with the proper tools, you can learn to manage your symptoms.

There is no shame in asking for medical treatment or assistance for depression or anxiety. Your medical professional can help you through the process.

Reviewed June 2, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

"An Online Program May Help Prevent Depression In Some People." NPR. Web. 31 May 2016.

ScienceDaily.  Web. 31 May 2016.

"Pitt Study Shows Online Therapy Effective at Treating Depression and Anxiety." Pitt Study Shows Online Therapy Effective at Treating Depression and Anxiety.  Web. 31 May 2016.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.