The University Network

Let Internet-Based Therapy Alleviate Your Holiday Depression

The holiday season is in full force. Some people wait all year for the festivities, gift giving and time with friends and family. But for many others, the holidays come with heightened feelings of depression and anxiety.

Seeking medical help for mental health can be difficult, inconvenient and financially burdensome, especially around the holidays, when most people tend to feel an obligation to see family and splurge on gifts, even if they may not have the budget for it.

But a lack of time and money doesn’t mean mental health should be ignored during the holidays.

Even the most severe cases of depression can be reduced through internet-based therapy, Indiana University researchers find.

The need for internet-based therapy

Many people, including college students, suffer from depression. Internet-based therapy can help alleviate the depression symptoms of those who are unable to be seen by a specialist.

“Close to one in four people meet the criteria for major depressive disorder,” Lorenzo Lorenzo-Luaces, an assistant professor of clinical psychology in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

“If you include people with minor depression or who have been depressed for a week or a month with a few symptoms, the number grows, exceeding the number of psychologists who can serve them,” he continued.

People with heightened depression are also expensive for the healthcare system, according to Lorenzo-Luaces.

“They tend to visit primary-care physicians more often than others,” he said in a statement. “They have more medical problems, and their depression sometimes gets in the way of their taking their medication for other medical problems.”

The study

Many internet-based therapy apps and websites have claimed to be able to treat depression.

These claims have been questioned by both patients and researchers, under the assumption that traditional human-to-human therapy and medication are the only ways to alleviate suffering.

To test if internet-based therapy could truly help depression, the researchers reviewed 21 pre-existing studies, which included a total of 4,871 participants. They found that internet-based therapy platforms can help relieve depression symptoms in even the most severe cases of depression.

“Before this study, I thought past studies were probably focused on people with very mild depression, those who did not have other mental health problems, and were at low risk for suicide,” Lorenzo-Luaces said in a statement. “To my surprise, that was not the case. The science suggests that these apps and platforms can help a large number of people.”

While face-to-face therapy and antidepressant medication may prove to be more effective than online therapy alone, this research provides promising evidence that internet-based cures can be very helpful.

“This is not to say that you should stop taking your medication and go to the nearest app store,” Lorenzo-Luaces said in a statement. “People tend to do better when they have a little bit of guidance.”