What is the most common mental disorder

Psychiatry, Psychosomatics & Psychotherapy


Mental illnesses: Digital-based applications do not replace doctor contact - but can complement it in a targeted manner

Digital-based interventions have the potential to improve mental health care. However, there are still no established quality criteria and controls, and medical care must not be delayed or replaced by such offers.

In Germany there is a great need for treating psychological complaints or disorders. At the same time, there are gaps in supply for various reasons, which, among other things, result in long waiting times for a therapy place. There are now many offers available on the Internet that are offered for the prevention but also for the treatment of psychological symptoms. They range from freely available, self-directed training programs to chat or video-supported concepts to professionally accompanied training programs. Some of these offers have the potential to become a component in the treatment of mental disorders. At the same time, it is urgent to warn against resorting to such offers alone in the event of psychological problems. There are still no established quality criteria and controls, and medical care must not be delayed or replaced by such offers. “The treatment of mental disorders always requires an exact diagnosis, which can only be made by a specialist. Physical causes - such as thyroid disorders - can also be the cause of psychological complaints and must be clarified. In addition, the same symptoms can hide different illnesses that require treatment or several mental disorders that require specific, targeted treatment, ”explains Dr. Iris Hauth from the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology (DGPPN) and spokeswoman for the DGPPN Taskforce E-Mental-Health. “It would be dangerous to rely solely on Internet-based offers if there are serious or long-term psychological complaints. Rather, you should contact a psychiatrist or your family doctor as soon as possible. ”Studies have shown that even with Internet-based interventions, solid initial diagnostics are important in order to select suitable programs for a specific indication.

Useful as a supplement to conventional supply offers

Digital-based interventions have the potential to improve mental health care. For a number of offers, there are now reliable proofs of effectiveness, even if they are not yet offered on the basis of defined quality criteria. “Programs for the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders, the two most widespread mental illnesses in the population, have been very well researched. Good results have been shown here, with the interventions mostly based on cognitive-behavioral approaches, ”reports Dr. Skin “Both therapeutically accompanied and unaccompanied interventions are effective. “But there are still no quality criteria that patients and prescribing doctors can use for orientation. If people want to use online programs to prevent psychological complaints, they can, for example, orientate themselves towards internet-based interventions that are offered by statutory health insurances. However, such offers are sometimes subject to a charge - unless you are insured with the health insurance company offering them. And ultimately these offers still lack an established seal of quality.

Self-management programs are easily accessible, can be reached anywhere and are available around the clock. Particularly for certain groups, such as people in sparsely populated regions, people who cannot attend regular weekly psychotherapy appointments, and who have to wait months for a therapy place, such offers can be very promising in the future. The anonymity of online therapy offers could make it easier for some people with mental health problems to access care and help reduce possible stigmatization. Because online interventions can in principle also involve risks and side effects, scientific reviews and the establishment of suitable quality criteria are necessary. The DGPPN's E-Mental Health Taskforce is currently developing quality criteria for internet-based therapies, which are also a prerequisite for their integration into standard care.

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