Pilot trial of a therapist-supported internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy program for health anxiety

Internet Interv. 2016 Oct 2:6:71-79. doi: 10.1016/j.invent.2016.09.007. eCollection 2016 Nov.


Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for health anxiety, but more research is needed to evaluate accessible, low cost ways of delivering CBT. Internet CBT may be effective, but there are no iCBT programs available outside of Sweden. We developed the first English-language clinician-guided iCBT program for health anxiety and conducted an open pilot trial (n = 16) to examine its acceptability, and impact on health anxiety and comorbidity, disability, and the cognitive and behavioural factors thought to maintain the disorder (e.g., catastrophising, hypervigilance). 13/16 participants completed the program (81% adherence). We found large and significant reductions in health anxiety, depression, distress, anxiety and disability (g's > 1.0), dysfunctional cognitions, behaviours and body vigilance between pre- and post-treatment, which were maintained at 3-month follow-up. The results provide preliminary support for the use of iCBT for health anxiety. Randomised controlled efficacy trials are now needed to evaluate this program.

Keywords: Anxiety; Cognitive behavioural therapy; Health anxiety; Illness; Illness anxiety disorder; Treatment outcome.