A clinical research unit for anxiety and depression from the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales has taken on the challenge to find out how to treat anxiety in children. Published in the June 2014 issue of Internet Interventions, this study suggests that the best way to treat anxiety in kids is through online therapy and education. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, one in eight children have anxiety. Without the proper treatment, problematic coping habits can spill over into adulthood, worsening anxiety. And with anxiety affecting over 40 million adults, it's important to learn how to manage anxiety early on.

The Setup

Nora Wong, a clinical researcher at the University of New South Wales, and her team led a randomized controlled trial of two school-based Internet-delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) programs. The goal of the experiment was to:

  • Determine the efficacy of Internet-based prevention programs to reduce anxiety
  • See how many Australian adolescents show symptoms of anxiety prior to intervention

Over 900 students in the ninth and tenth grade were randomly selected from 12 different high schools to participate in the trial. These students were enrolled into the THIS WAY UP online program. THIS WAY UP is an online resource targeted towards adolescents who want to know more about anxiety and depression treatment.

Students were enrolled in an anxiety program and a depression program. The course on anxiety consisted of six 40 minute lessons taught by an instructor, followed by 15-20 minutes of self-taught lessons. The lesson plan taught by THIS WAY UP on overcoming anxiety included:

  • Learning About Anxiety. Students find out how to recognize the signs for anxiety
  • Realistic Thinking. Students learn how problematic thinking behaviors contribute to their anxiety
  • Facing Fears. Students use exposure therapy to conquer their fears
  • Assertiveness. Students practice confronting their problems instead of avoiding them
  • Prediction Testing. Students use reality strategy to challenge problematic predictions on situations
  • Review & Help Seeking. Most importantly, students learn where to get help

The course on depression used a similar model, but was administered in seven lessons.

The Results

In comparison to those not enrolled in THIS WAY UP, students who received depression or anxiety intervention showed significant improvements over the course of the program. Specific to the THIS WAY UP anxiety intervention course, these students reported reduction in anxiety symptoms at the end of the program. These results confirm that online CBT treatment positively influences adolescents in their struggles against depression and anxiety.

Date of original publication:
Updated on: October 23, 2015

Sources

Nora Wong, Lianne Kady, Louise Mewton, Matthew Sunderland, Gavin Andrews. Preventing anxiety and depression in adolescents: A randomized controlled trial of two school based internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy programs. Internet Inventions 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.invent.2014.05.004

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