Are Internet- and mobile-based interventions effective in adults with diagnosed panic disorder and/or agoraphobia? A systematic review and meta-analysis

J Affect Disord. 2020 Nov 1;276:169-182. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.06.059. Epub 2020 Jul 15.


Background: There is no meta-analysis that specifically evaluates the effectiveness of Internet- and mobile-based interventions (IMIs) in adults with diagnosed panic disorder and/or agoraphobia (PD/A) so far. The current meta-analysis aims to fill this gap (PROSPERO CRD 42016034016).

Methods: Systematic literature searches in six databases for randomised and controlled clinical trials investigating IMIs in adults, who met diagnostic criteria for PD/A. Study selection and data extraction were conducted independently by two reviewers. Random-effects meta-analyses, pre-planned subgroup and sensitivity analyses were conducted when appropriate. Primary outcomes were PD and A symptom severity. In addition, adherence, response, remission, quality of life, anxiety and depression symptom severity were examined.

Results: A total of 16 trials (1015 patients), with 21 comparisons (9 IMI vs. waitlist; 7 IMI vs. IMI; 5 IMI vs. active treatment condition), were included. IMIs revealed beneficial effects on panic (Hedges' g range -2.61 to -0.25) and agoraphobia symptom severity when compared to waitlist (pooled g = -1.15, [95%-CI = -1.56; -0.74]). Studies comparing IMIs to active controls (i.e., face-to-face CBT and applied relaxation) did not find significant differences for reductions in panic (g = -0.02, [95%-CI = -0.25; 0.21]) and agoraphobia symptom severity (g = -0.10, [95%-CI = -0.39; 0.19]). Furthermore, IMIs were superior to waitlist controls regarding anxiety and depression symptom severity and quality of life.

Limitations: Tests for publication bias were not feasible due to the limited number of trials per comparison, and the risk of bias assessment indicated some methodological shortcomings.

Conclusions: Findings from this meta-analytic review provide support for the effectiveness of IMIs in patients with verified PD/A. However, before IMIs can be included in treatment guidelines for PD/A, future high quality research is needed that substantiates and extends the evidence base, especially in regard to intervention safety.

Keywords: Agoraphobia; Anxiety disorder; Panic disorder; Psychotherapy; eHealth; mHealth.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agoraphobia* / therapy
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Panic Disorder* / therapy
  • Quality of Life