Computer-Based Anxiety Program May Reduce Anxiety, Suicide Risk

A young man holds his head in his handsAnxiety conditions such as phobias, panic, and posttraumatic stress (PTSD) are the most common types of mental health conditions, affecting 40 million adults in the United States—18% of the population. The chronic fear and anxiety these disorders cause can push some people to their breaking point, leading to suicidal thoughts and actions. Often, though, the people who need help the most are the least likely to get it. Mental health stigma, economic limitations, and the availability of quality therapists can all pose serious obstacles to moving past anxiety.

A study published in December’s issue of Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology offers new hope to people struggling with anxiety. According to researchers, a brief computer-based intervention could dramatically reduce the risk of suicide among people struggling with anxiety.

Using Computers to Treat Anxiety

Researchers developed a computer-based anxiety program that requires no mental health training, only access to a computer. The program, called the Cognitive Anxiety Sensitivity Treatment (CAST), takes only 45 minutes and features videos, interactive programs, and questions designed to ensure the user has a good understanding of the topic.

Researchers evaluated the effectiveness of the program by testing 108 participants classified as having above-average sensitivity to anxiety. Half of participants completed the CAST program, while the other half reviewed a computer program that emphasized the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Participants underwent anxiety testing before and after completing the computer programs. Researchers also tested the participants’ anxiety levels one month after the computer trials.

Participants who completed the CAST program had greater dips in anxiety than those who learned about healthy living. Even more exciting, the improvement in anxiety was similar to improvements previous research found associated with intensive therapy.

The study’s authors note that their program could be particularly effective at reducing suicide risk among people at high risk for suicide, such as military veterans who have PTSD. Lowering anxiety sensitivity can lower suicide risk, since a heightened anxiety risk is correlated with an increase in suicidal thoughts and actions. Moreover, an affordable program that doesn’t require a large time investment could be appealing even to people who have previously resisted seeking help for their anxiety.

References:

  1. Computer-based approach to treating anxiety may reduce suicide risk. (2014, December 3). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141203161042.htm
  2. Facts & statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

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  • will

    will

    December 9th, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Could be especially promising for those who live too far away from a treating provider or who simply want to find a way to try to work through some of this on their own.

  • Mick

    Mick

    December 9th, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    The thing that would be great for me is that this would be some,thing that I would be more comfortable with because of the fact that I am so computer driven this just sort of appeals to me more than one on one sessions would I think . I can see why this would be like this for other people too, this is kind of what we are used to and feel the most at home with.

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