Digital Technologies in the Treatment of Anxiety: Recent Innovations and Future Directions

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2018 May 19;20(6):44. doi: 10.1007/s11920-018-0910-2.


Purpose of review: This review aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the efficacy, limitations, and future of e-health treatments for anxiety. Within this, we provide detail on "first-generation" e-health approaches, such as computerized therapies. Additionally, we assess the emergence and early efficacy of newer methods of treatment delivery, including smartphone apps and virtual reality interventions, discussing the potential and pitfalls for each.

Recent findings: There is now substantial clinical research demonstrating the efficacy of internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy in the treatment of anxiety. However, the ability of these interventions for engaging patients in "real-world" settings is unclear. Recently, smartphone apps for anxiety have presented a more popular and ubiquitous method of intervention delivery, although the evidence base supporting these newer approaches drastically falls behind the extensive marketing and commercialization efforts currently driving their development. Meanwhile, the increasing availability of novel technologies, such as "virtual reality" (VR), introduces further potential of e-health treatments for generalized anxiety and anxiety-related disorders such as phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder, while also creating additional challenges for research. Although still in its infancy, e-health research is already presenting several promising avenues for delivering effective and scalable treatments for anxiety. Nonetheless, several important steps must be taken in order for academic research to keep pace with continued technological advances.

Keywords: Affective disorders; Internet; Technological; VR; e-Health; m-Health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / instrumentation
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Smartphone
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted / trends
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy / methods*