Development and feasibility of a digital Acceptance and Commitment Therapy-based Intervention for Generalised Anxiety Disorder: Pilot study (Preprint)
Hemmings NR., Kawadler JM., Whatmough R., Ponzo S., Rossi A., Morelli D., Bird G., Plans D.
<sec> <title>BACKGROUND</title> <p>Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterised by excessive worry that is difficult to control and has high comorbidity with mood disorders including depression. Individuals experience long wait times for diagnosis and often face accessibility barriers to treatment. There is a need for a digital solution that is accessible and acceptable to those with GAD.</p> </sec> <sec> <title>OBJECTIVE</title> <p>This paper aims to describe the development of a digital intervention prototype of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for GAD that sits within an existing wellbeing app platform, BioBase. A pilot feasibility study evaluating acceptability, usability and efficacy study is conducted in a sample of adults with a diagnosis of GAD, self-referred to the study.</p> </sec> <sec> <title>METHODS</title> <p>Phase 1 applied the person-based approach (creation of guiding principles, intervention design objectives and the key intervention features). In Phase 2 participants received the app-based therapeutic and paired wearable for two weeks. Self-report questionnaires were obtained at baseline and post-treatment. The primary outcome was psychological flexibility (AAQ-II) as this is the aim of ACT. Mental wellbeing (WEMWBS) and symptoms of anxiety (GAD-7) and depression (PHQ-9) were also assessed. Post-treatment usability was assessed via self-report measures (SUS) in addition to interviews that further explored feasibility of the digital intervention in this sample.</p> </sec> <sec> <title>RESULTS</title> <p>The app-based therapeutic was well received. Of 13 participants, 10 (77%) completed the treatment. Results show a high usability rating (83.5). Participants found the digital intervention to be relevant, useful and helpful in managing their anxiety. Participants had lower anxiety (d=0.69) and depression (d=0.84) scores at exit, and these differences were significantly different from baseline. Participants had higher psychological flexibility and wellbeing scores at exit, although these were not significantly different from baseline.</p> </sec> <sec> <title>CONCLUSIONS</title> <p>This ACT prototype within BioBase is an acceptable and feasible digital intervention, with evidence of preliminary efficacy in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. This study suggests this intervention warrants a larger feasibility study in adults with GAD.</p> </sec>