Many teenagers suffer from persistent and often blinding anxiety of being evaluated negatively by others. Unfortunately, many people are unable to get potentially life-saving in-person care.
Web-Based Therapies Seem To Work For Children With Anxiety Disorders
However, according to a group of Swedish researchers, an online version of a widely used behavioural treatment procedure can provide considerable comfort to people affected.
The discovery might open the path for faster and less expensive access to an effective therapy for social anxiety disorder, a prevalent teenage illness (SAD).
According to research author Martina Nordh, SAD is one of the most frequent mental diseases among young people, affecting 5% to 10% of those under the age of 18. She works as a psychologist and postdoctoral researcher at the Karolinska Institut, Sweden, in the department of clinical neuroscience.
According to Nordh, it develops as acute and persistent anxiety of social or performance circumstances, which are often avoided or endured under extreme stress. It frequently causes issues for youth while playing or socialising, as well as with academic performance and involvement in recreational activities, she noted. Antidepressants and in-person sessions based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are frequently used in standard treatment.
CBT, according to the research team, attempts to promote a clear outlook, new interpersonal skills, and enhanced social involvement. And, by gradually increasing exposure to the kind of social circumstances that patients find the most intimidating, the strategy is beneficial in helping patients better understand and conquer their fear. The issue, according to Nordh, is that creating and maintaining an in-person CBT therapy programme might be difficult for teenagers.
Many communities do not have enough trained paediatric CBT therapists. And, in the case of SAD, the disorder’s symptoms might make it difficult to seek treatment, as Nordh pointed out. This is due to the fact that many people with SAD are afraid of meeting new people, such as unfamiliar health care experts, and are hesitant to attend strange places, such as mental health care facilities, she explains.
The researchers thought that offering CBT online can be a realistic and successful alternative. They examined over 100 SAD patients aged 10 to 17 between 2017 and 2020 to find out. CBT therapy was offered online to around half of the teenagers. The other half received supportive treatment, which was likewise given entirely online.
It also entails educating people about SAD while emphasising the importance of companionship, socialisation and promoting healthy behaviours like exercise. The supportive therapy agenda, however, does not include gradually increasing exposure to stressful social settings.
Both methods lasted ten weeks and included weekly therapist support. Each group received three face-to-face online video therapy sessions with a therapist altogether.
Teens, their parents, and the study team all believed that online CBT was far more beneficial than online supportive counselling in reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. It also outperformed in terms of assisting teenagers in doing better on a daily basis.
According to Nordh, online CBT was also found to be less expensive than supportive treatment. She also mentioned that having an internet-based approach means that families do not have to miss school or work to engage in the program and that therapists can serve more patients at the same time because online CBT takes less therapist time than traditional CBT.
Nordh and her colleagues believe that the results will motivate health care professionals on a national and worldwide scale to support more study and integration of this simple and effective therapy for SAD in children.
However, according to David Miklowitz, who is the head of the child and adolescent mood disorders department at California University, L.A., the success of web-based treatment is primarily dependent on how it is structured.