Computer Software that Reduces Known Risk Factors for Anxiety, Depression, and Related Issues
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According to the World Health Organization anxiety and related issues, including addictions and mood problems as well as suicide, represent some of the most prevalent and disabling conditions across all physical and mental health disorders. As such, there is a clear public health need to more effectively prevent, mitigate and treat these issues.
Despite their prevalence and impairing nature, many of these problems respond remarkably well to treatment. It sounds almost too good to be true, but decades long conditions can be effectively removed in a few weeks with proper treatment. Our computer delivered interventions are even briefer – only about 50 minutes long. Despite their brevity, we have found that these interventions have considerable and long lasting positive benefits. Specifically, these brief treatments reduce the targeted risk factor by about 30% and these reductions are durable for as long as two years. Currently, we have two computer interventions - one focuses on stress sensitivity and the other on social isolation. These constructs have a considerable empirical foundation and are implicated as critical mechanisms involved in anxiety and mood problems.
Our work in this area combines three key tasks: (1) identification of malleable risk factors, (2) developing interventions for these risk factors, and (3) using technology to facilitate delivery of the interventions.
Technology is increasingly used to assist medical professionals. In regard to risk factors, our approach has been to develop interactive computer programs that guide participants through the information and skills needed to correct the problem of interest. These computer programs are brief (under one hour) and are readily disseminated via the web.