A randomized controlled trial of a smartphone-based application for the treatment of anxiety


Introduction: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is prevalent among college students. Smartphone-based interventions may be a low-cost treatment method. Method: College students with self-reported GAD were randomized to receive smartphone-based guided self-help (n = 50), or no treatment (n = 50). Post-treatment and six-month follow-up outcomes included the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales-Short Form Stress Subscale (DASS Stress), the Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ-11), and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory-Trait (STAI-T), as well as diagnostic status assessed by the GAD-Questionnaire, 4th edition. Results: From pre- to post-treatment, participants who received guided self-help (vs. no treatment) experienced significantly greater reductions on the DASS Stress (d = -0.408) and a greater probability of remission from GAD (d = -0.445). There was no significant between-group difference in change on the PSWQ-11 (d = -0.208) or STAI-T (d = -0.114). From post to six-month follow-up there was no significant loss of gains on DASS Stress scores (d = -0.141) and of those who had remitted, 78.6% remained remitted. Yet rates of remitted participants no longer differed significantly between conditions at follow-up (d = -0.229). Conclusion: Smartphone-based interventions may be efficacious in treating some aspects of GAD. Methods for improving symptom reduction and long-term outcome are discussed.

Psychotherapy Research