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Exposure-based cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT) delivered via the internet has been shown to be effective for severe health anxiety (hypochondriasis) but has not been compared with an active, effective and credible psychological treatment, such as behavioural stress management (BSM).
To investigate two internet-delivered treatments – exposure-based CBT v. BSM – for severe health anxiety in a randomised controlled trial (trial registration: NCT01673035).
Participants (n = 158) with a principal diagnosis of severe health anxiety were allocated to 12 weeks of exposure-based CBT (n = 79) or BSM (n = 79) delivered via the internet. The Health Anxiety Inventory (HAI) was the primary outcome.
Internet-delivered exposure-based CBT led to a significantly greater improvement on the HAI compared with BSM. However, both treatment groups made large improvements on the HAI (pre-to-post-treatment Cohen's d: exposure-based CBT, 1.78; BSM, 1.22).
Exposure-based CBT delivered via the internet is an efficacious treatment for severe health anxiety.
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