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To evaluate an internet self-help package for sub-clinical social anxiety and its effect on quality-of-life, mental well-being, depression and general anxiety.

Why this is important:

Social anxiety symptoms cause major problems for many people. The problems tend to last for many years and people often do not seek help. Seeing a therapist for face-to-face cognitive behavioural therapy is recommended by NICE as the most effective approach for social anxiety disorder. We also know that many people have sub-clinical social anxiety symptoms, which cause them problems but are not severe enough to be diagnosed as 'social anxiety disorder.' Many of these people turn to the internet to look for help where various unguided, self-directed internet-based tools are being made widely available - but there is very little evidence to say whether or not these are helpful.


We will test the value of an internet self-help package (E-Couch) for sub-clinical social anxiety symptoms in the general population in a randomised controlled trial where we compare this intervention with a 'control' website. We intend to provide E-Couch (or the 'control' website) to around 2000 people. 

These people will have social anxiety symptoms but not social anxiety disorder. For the people who are likely to have social anxiety disorder we will direct them to seek evidence-based help from the NHS, as recommended by NICE.

Over a period of 12 months we will measure the effect of using E-Couch self-help on social anxiety symptoms, as well as on quality of life, mental wellbeing, depression and general anxiety, and their use of other sources of help. 

HOw this will benefit patients:

Harnessing the internet to help with a common problem among the general population has great potential to deliver low cost, widely accessible public mental health interventions. Our project will also give the opportunity to learn more about the value of using the internet to do this, and what the opportunities and challenges are - for researchers as well as for service providers and the public.

Study update:

We are currently recruiting patients into this study. If you would like further information please visit the study website 

Further information:

Full project title:

Effectiveness and Cost-effectiveness of a Fully Self-guided Internet-based Intervention for Shyness and Sub-clinical Social Anxiety Symptoms in the General Population: Pragmatic Randomised Controlled Trial

Length of project:

May 2015 – June 2017

External collaborators: