People with social phobia are being sought to take part in a study to test the effectiveness of a novel internet-based education program from UNSW, aimed at helping people learn to manage the problem.
Social phobia is when people fear and try to avoid situations in which they think they might be judged. In mild to moderate cases, people might still maintain a job and a relationship, but will avoid places or doing things out of their comfort zone. At the severe end, sufferers might quit work, avoid leaving home and become depressed and lonely.
While social phobia affects more than 200,000 Australians every year, only 21 percent of those report seeking treatment, according to research conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (1997 National Survey of Health and Wellbeing).
Dr Nick Titov, a Senior Research Fellow at the Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety Disorders, at UNSW's School of Psychiatry said the program is different to anything else being offered in Australia.
"People log-on to the website, complete the lesson for that week, and then do the homework assignments," said Dr Titov, the first investigator on the project. "So far, those who have completed a similar program have reported that it's been very helpful. What's more is that it's cost-effective to operate and it can be accessed by anyone - even if they live in a remote part of Australia. This is particularly important because it can be difficult accessing treatment for social phobia."
The study will provide feedback and support via email. Dr Titov says that he expects that people who undertake the program will learn helpful techniques for managing their symptoms, but that success will be due to active participation, particularly doing the homework assignments.
"International research has shown that web-based education programs are effective for people who are socially anxious in the long-term," said Dr Titov. "We know it works overseas - we want to see how effective it can be in Australia."
The program is part of the CLIMATE education and treatment resources, which have been developed to tackle a range of health problems including depression, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
To enrol in the study, please go to the website for detailed information.
Media contact: Susi Hamilton, UNSW Media unit, 9385 1583 or 0422 934 024
Date Issued: 8 May, 2007