Digital Technologies in the Treatment of Anxiety: Recent Innovations and Future Directions

  • Joseph FirthEmail author
  • John Torous
  • Rebekah Carney
  • Jill Newby
  • Theodore D. Cosco
  • Helen Christensen
  • Jerome Sarris
Anxiety Disorders (A Pelissolo, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Anxiety Disorders


Purpose of Review

This review aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the efficacy, limitations, and future of e-health treatments for anxiety. Within this, we provide detail on “first-generation” e-health approaches, such as computerized therapies. Additionally, we assess the emergence and early efficacy of newer methods of treatment delivery, including smartphone apps and virtual reality interventions, discussing the potential and pitfalls for each.

Recent Findings

There is now substantial clinical research demonstrating the efficacy of internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy in the treatment of anxiety. However, the ability of these interventions for engaging patients in “real-world” settings is unclear. Recently, smartphone apps for anxiety have presented a more popular and ubiquitous method of intervention delivery, although the evidence base supporting these newer approaches drastically falls behind the extensive marketing and commercialization efforts currently driving their development. Meanwhile, the increasing availability of novel technologies, such as “virtual reality” (VR), introduces further potential of e-health treatments for generalized anxiety and anxiety-related disorders such as phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder, while also creating additional challenges for research.


Although still in its infancy, e-health research is already presenting several promising avenues for delivering effective and scalable treatments for anxiety. Nonetheless, several important steps must be taken in order for academic research to keep pace with continued technological advances.


e-Health VR m-Health Technological Affective disorders Internet 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Joseph Firth is supported by a Blackmores Institute Fellowship.

John Torous is supported by a NARSAD Young Investigator Award from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and a Dupont Warren Fellowship from the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry.

Rebekah Carney each declare no potential conflicts of interest.

Theodore D. Cosco is supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship (MFE-146676) and holds equity in Eos Analytics Ltd.

Helen Christensen is funded by a NHMRC John Cade Fellowships (1056964).

Jerome Sarris is supported by an NHMRC Research Fellowship (1125000).

Jill Newby is supported by a NHMRC/MRFF Career Development Fellowship (1145382).

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Firth
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • John Torous
    • 3
    • 4
  • Rebekah Carney
    • 2
    • 5
  • Jill Newby
    • 6
  • Theodore D. Cosco
    • 7
    • 8
  • Helen Christensen
    • 9
    • 10
  • Jerome Sarris
    • 1
    • 11
  1. 1.NICM Health Research InstituteUniversity of Western SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Division of Psychology and Mental Health, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and HealthUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Division of Clinical Informatics, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical CenterHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  4. 4.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  5. 5.Youth Mental Health Research UnitGreater Manchester West Mental Health Foundation TrustManchesterUK
  6. 6.School of Psychology, Faculty of ScienceUNSW SydneySydneyAustralia
  7. 7.Gerontology Research CentreSimon Fraser UniversityVancouverCanada
  8. 8.Oxford Institute of Population AgeingUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  9. 9.Black Dog InstituteUNSW SydneySydneyAustralia
  10. 10.School of Psychiatry, Faculty of MedicineUNSW SydneySydneyAustralia
  11. 11.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Melbourne, Professorial Unit, The Melbourne ClinicMelbourneAustralia

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