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Development and Feasibility Testing of Internet-Delivered Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Severe Health Anxiety: Pilot Study.

Development and Feasibility Testing of Internet-Delivered Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Severe Health Anxiety: Pilot Study.
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Hoffmann D, Rask CU, Hedman-Lagerlöf E, Ljótsson B, Frostholm L,


Hoffmann D, Rask CU, Hedman-Lagerlöf E, Ljótsson B, Frostholm L, (click to view)

Hoffmann D, Rask CU, Hedman-Lagerlöf E, Ljótsson B, Frostholm L,

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JMIR mental health 2018 04 065(2) e28 doi 10.2196/mental.9198
Abstract
BACKGROUND
Severe health anxiety (hypochondriasis), or illness anxiety disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, is characterized by preoccupation with fear of suffering from a serious illness in spite of medical reassurance. It is a debilitating, prevalent disorder associated with increased health care utilization. Still, there is a lack of easily accessible specialized treatment for severe health anxiety.

OBJECTIVE
The aims of this paper were to (1) describe the development and setup of a new internet-delivered acceptance and commitment therapy (iACT) program for patients with severe health anxiety using self-referral and a video-based assessment; and (2) examine the feasibility and potential clinical efficacy of iACT for severe health anxiety.

METHODS
Self-referred patients (N=15) with severe health anxiety were diagnostically assessed by a video-based interview. They received 7 sessions of clinician-supported iACT comprising self-help texts, video clips, audio files, and worksheets over 12 weeks. Self-report questionnaires were obtained at baseline, post-treatment, and at 3-month follow-up. The primary outcome was Whiteley-7 Index (WI-7) measuring health anxiety severity. Depressive symptoms, health-related quality of life (HRQoL), life satisfaction, and psychological flexibility were also assessed. A within-group design was employed. Means, standard deviations, and effect sizes using the standardized response mean (SRM) were estimated. Post-treatment interviews were conducted to evaluate the patient experience of the usability and acceptability of the treatment setup and program.

RESULTS
The self-referral and video-based assessments were well received. Most patients (12/15, 80%) completed the treatment, and only 1 (1/15, 7%) dropped out. Post-treatment (14/15, 93%) and 3-month follow-up (12/15, 80%) data were available for almost all patients. Paired t tests showed significant improvements on all outcome measures both at post-treatment and 3-month follow-up, except on one physical component subscale of HRQoL. Health anxiety symptoms decreased with 33.9 points at 3-month follow-up (95% CI 13.6-54.3, t= 3.66, P=.004) with a large within-group effect size of 1.06 as measured by the SRM.

CONCLUSIONS
Treatment adherence and potential efficacy suggest that iACT may be a feasible treatment for health anxiety. The uncontrolled design and small sample size of the study limited the robustness of the findings. Therefore, the findings should be replicated in a randomized controlled trial. Potentially, iACT may increase availability and accessibility of specialized treatment for health anxiety.

TRIAL REGISTRATION
Danish Data Protection Agency, Central Denmark Region: 1-16-02-427-14; https://www.rm.dk/sundhed/faginfo/forskning/datatilsynet/ (Archived by Webcite at http://www.webcitation.org/6yDA7WovM).

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