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Severe COVID-19 anxiety among adults in the UK: protocol for a cohort study and nested feasibility trial of modified cognitive-behavioural therapy for health anxiety

Crawford, M. J., Leeson, V. C., McQuaid, A. , Samuel, O., King, J. D., Di Simplicio, M., Tyrer, P., Tyrer, H., Watt, R. G. & Barnicot, K. ORCID: 0000-0001-5083-5135 (2022). Severe COVID-19 anxiety among adults in the UK: protocol for a cohort study and nested feasibility trial of modified cognitive-behavioural therapy for health anxiety. BMJ Open, 12(9), article number e059321. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-059321


Introduction: Some people are so anxious about COVID-19 that it impairs their functioning. However, little is known about the course of severe COVID-19 anxiety or what can be done to help people who experience it.

Methods and analysis: Cohort study with a nested feasibility trial with follow-up at 3 and 6 months. We recruited 306 people who were aged 18 and over, lived in the UK and had severe COVID-19 anxiety (indicated by a score of 9 or more on the Coronavirus Anxiety Scale (CAS)). To take part in the nested feasibility trial, participants also had to have a score of 20 or more on the Short Health Anxiety Inventory. We excluded people from the trial if they had had COVID-19 within the previous 4 weeks, if they were currently self-isolating or if they were already receiving psychological treatment.

We publicised the study nationally through adverts, social media and posts on message boards. We also recruited participants via clinicians working in primary and secondary care NHS services in London. All those in the active arm will be offered 5–10 sessions of remotely delivered modified cognitive–behavioural therapy for health anxiety (CBT-HA). We will examine the proportion of participants who remain above threshold on the CAS at 3 and 6 months and factors that influence levels of COVID-19 anxiety over 6 months using mixed effects logistic regression. The key feasibility metrics for the nested trial are the level of uptake of CBT-HA and the rate of follow-up.

Ethics and dissemination: Approved by Leicester Central Research Ethics Committee (reference: 20/EM/0238). The results of the study will be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ. This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
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