Can the Internet Help with Anxiety Disorders?

Nearly 20% of American adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, less than half of which receive professional treatment. This is not necessarily due to a lack of treatment options, rather the barriers to treatment. Aside from cost and access, stigma and fear play a large part of the problem. People who suffer from this disorder may have a harder time seeking help than others. If those afflicted were able to find ways to treat their anxiety through online resources, would these staggering numbers decrease? There are some in the field who believe so, including Bethany Teachman, Ph.D. and professor of clinical psychology and director of clinical training at the University of Virginia psychology department.


Using Time Online to Train Your Mind

In a recent article published by the American Psychological Association, Teachman says, “Our lab has been working on a series of intervention studies to design and improve technology-delivered (via computer, smartphone and tablet) “cognitive bias modification” programs to train interpretations to ultimately reduce anxiety and various forms of emotion dysregulation.”

But how can you “train” your mind to not have anxiety?

In simplified terms, according to Teachman, anxiety connects with a tendency to associate threatening messages to situations. If technology-based programs could calm your mind by shifting negative associations to positive outcomes, the symptoms could be reduced.


What Exactly is Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorder is a mental health condition in which those afflicted suffer from intense and often irrational feelings of fear. Types can include generalized, social, and separation anxiety disorders, as well as various phobias, such as fear of spiders. Panic disorder is a subset of the disease in which the individual is subject to recurring panic attacks. These disorders can cause constant disruptions in a person’s everyday life, interfering with even the most mundane tasks. The afflicted also have a greatly increased rate of suicide. Finally, there is a strong correlation between anxiety disorders and substance abuse disorder.


How is Anxiety Disorder Treated?

Professional treatment for these disorders often involves a variety of modalities, including certain behavioral therapies as well as medication. The goal of psychotherapy is to, much in the same way Teachman describes, counteract emotional dysregulation. With the prevalence of mental illness we are experiencing today, it is important that individuals seek professional help to diagnose whether they are suffering from an anxiety disorder.