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BMC Psychiatry. 2010 Mar 21;10:25. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-10-25.

Protocol for a randomised controlled trial investigating the effectiveness of an online e health application for the prevention of Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

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Centre for Mental Health Research, School of Health & Psychological Sciences, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, Australian National University, Australia.



Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a highly prevalent psychiatric disorder. Effective prevention in young adulthood has the potential to reduce the prevalence of the disorder, to reduce disability and lower the costs of the disorder to the community. The present trial (the WebGAD trial) aims to evaluate the effectiveness of an evidence-based online prevention website for GAD.


The principal clinical question under investigation is the effectiveness of an online GAD intervention (E-couch) using a community-based sample. We examine whether the effect of the intervention can be maximised by either human support, in the form of telephone calls, or by automated support through emails. The primary outcome will be a reduction in symptoms on the GAD-7 in the active arms relative to the non active intervention arms.


The WebGAD trial will be the first to evaluate the use of an internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) program contrasted with a credible control condition for the prevention of GAD and the first formal RCT evaluation of a web-based program for GAD using community recruitment. In general, internet-based CBT programs have been shown to be effective for the treatment of other anxiety disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Phobia, Panic Disorder and stress in clinical trials; however there is no evidence for the use of internet CBT in the prevention of GAD. Given the severe shortage of therapists identified in Australia and overseas, and the low rates of treatment seeking in those with a mental illness, the successful implementation of this protocol has important practical outcomes. If found to be effective, WebGAD will provide those experiencing GAD with an easily accessible, free, evidence-based prevention tool which can be promoted and disseminated immediately.

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