Internet-based psychological interventions
There are several internet-based psychological interventions that aim to educate people about anxiety and provide an interactive, structured skills-training program for addressing anxiety symptoms. Using a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach, such interventions have been found successful for various anxiety disorders.
Two such Australian programs are offered by:
- The Centre for Clinical Interventions, which is based in Western Australia and provides programs for social anxiety (Shy No Longer), panic disorder (Panic Stations) and GAD (What? Me Worry!?!) – you can find these in the resources section; and
- The e-hub groups at Australian National University, which provides the e-couch program for GAD and social anxiety.
The main advantages of internet-based programs are that they allow people to access the intervention at home and a time that's convenient to them, offer peer-to-peer support and provide anonymity that may suit some people. They’re also a great innovation for people living in rural and remote communities without ready access to mental health professionals. However, the drop-out rate is fairly high, and success rates aren't as high as with face-to-face interventions. In general, self-help strategies work best for motivated people.
Bibliotherapy is a self-help intervention of reading books, pamphlets and other written materials that provide information and exercises addressing anxiety disorders. These can be recommended by a health professional or sought out by you. Unfortunately the quality of information provided is highly variable: those based on CBT can be helpful, but quick-fix popular psychology books are not. Examples of CBT-based books are Change Your Thinking by Sarah Edelman and The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J Bourne.
Exercise is widely accepted as an effective and first line treatment for mild to moderate depression, which commonly occurs with anxiety. However, its potential as a treatment for anxiety disorders is less well understood, with few well-designed studies looking specifically at different anxiety disorders. For people with anxiety symptoms, rather than disorders, exercise is likely to be helpful, especially moderate-to-vigorous activity conducted under supervision or in a gym, rather than at home.
A meta-analysis of relaxation interventions for anxiety found that progressive relaxation, applied relaxation and meditation were effective forms of relaxation therapy, with the best results among younger people. Meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques can be self-administered, with teachings available from health practitioners, alternative health practitioners, audio recordings (CDs and so on) and even phone and tablet apps.
While known mainly as a resource for people with depression, Beyond Blue also has resources for anxiety.
Helpline provides information and referral contacts, but not counselling. Phone 1800 18 SANE (7263), Monday to Friday 9am-5pm AEST.
The National Prescribing Service
can provide more information about drugs and their side effects and contraindications. You can also call their Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424), Monday to Friday 9am-5pm AEST.
• E-couch (ecouch.anu.edu.au
• CCI (cci.health.wa.gov.au
Telephone counselling (24/7)
• Lifeline Australia (13 11 14)
• Kids Help Line, for people aged 5-25 (1800 551 800)