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Internet-Based Behavior Therapy Can Treat Panic, Depressive Disorders


According to a new doctoral thesis soon to be presented at Karolinska Institute in Sweden, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) via the internet is just as effective in treating panic disorder as well as the treatment of mild and moderate depression.

Jan Bergström, psychologist and doctoral student at the Center for Psychiatry Research says, "Internet-based CBT is also more cost-effective than group therapy." She further states, "The results therefore support the introduction of Internet treatment into regular psychiatry, which is also what the National Board of Health and Welfare recommends in its new guidelines for the treatment of depression and anxiety."

Currently it is estimated that depression affects 15 percent of people and 4 percent of the population suffer from panic disorder. Depression can include a number of symptoms, such as sad mood, unable to feel joy, guilt, lethargy, concentration difficulties, insomnia a feeling of hopelessness and an inability to enjoy life. Panic disorder involves debilitating panic attacks that discourage a person from entering places or situations previously associated with panic. Common symptoms include palpitations, shaking, nausea and a sense that something dangerous is about to happen. Sometimes panic attacks can imitate the signs of a heart attack.

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Previous studies have shown that CBT is an effective treatment for both panic disorder and depression. However, many psychologists and psychotherapists do not use the CBT methods. Therefore, Internet-based CBT has therefore been developed, so that patients can undergo Internet-based self-help program and have contact with a therapist by email.

The doctoral thesis includes a randomized clinical trial of 104 patients with panic disorder and compares the effectiveness of Internet-based CBT and group CBT within a regular healthcare service.

The study illustrates that both treatments worked well and that there was no significant difference between them, either immediately after treatment or at a six-month follow-up. Analyses of the results for the treatment of depression show that Internet-based CBT is most effective if it is administered as early as possible. Patients with a higher severity of depression and/or a history of more frequent depressive episodes benefited less well from the Internet treatment.

Bergström who works as a clinical psychologist at the Anxiety Disorders Unit of the Psychiatry Northwest division of the Stockholm County Council stated, "Thanks to our research, Internet treatment is now implemented within regular healthcare in Stockholm which probably makes the Stockholm County Council the first in the world to offer such treatment in its regular psychiatric services."



We used a computer program to offer CBT to outpatient mental health clients at Southeast Texas MHMR in 1990. The Swedish services are a lomg way from being "...first in the world."