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Home Industry News Anxiety caused by Googling symptoms ‘can be addressed by therapy’

Anxiety caused by Googling symptoms ‘can be addressed by therapy’

8th September 2017

People with significant health-related anxiety fuelled by researching their own symptoms on the internet may benefit from psychotherapy, according to a new study.

The research from Imperial College London and King's College London has found that targeted cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could be used to treat patients with high health anxiety who excessively worry about their health, but do not recognise the underlying cause.

Currently, it is estimated that one in five people attending medical clinics have abnormal health anxiety, which may be made worse by researching symptoms online and assuming the worst – a phenomenon known as cyberchondria.

For this study, 444 people with severe health anxiety underwent sessions of CBT to challenge their thoughts and recognise how they are fuelling their own anxiety. After a year, the patients' condition improved from severe to moderate, with symptoms of anxiety and depression also improving.

The team also found that the benefits of CBT persisted after five years, with the costs of the treatment more than offset by the savings made by health services.

Peter Tyrer, emeritus professor of community psychiatry at Imperial College London, said: "We recommend that further work is needed in research to identify and treat the growing problem of health anxiety in hospitals."

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