• Sara Bardsley

Student thesis: Doctor of Clinical Psychology


This thesis titled 'Reducing health worry and searching the Internet for health information' was completed by Sara Bardsley for the degree of Doctor of Clinical Psychology (ClinPsyD) at The University of Manchester. The thesis was submitted on the 14th of July 2016 for examination in September 2016 and incorporates three chapters. Chapter 1 presents a systematic review of the literature examining the relationship between impulsivity and problematic internet use. The systematic review was prepared for publication in the Journal 'Clinical Psychology Review'. A comprehensive literature search was conducted using the following search engines: EMBASE, PsycINFO, MEDLINE, and CINAHL. Twenty-four studies met inclusion criteria and were identified for the systematic review. Each study was quality rated using a quality assessment tool. The findings indicate a consistent relationship between impulsivity and problematic internet use in the majority of reviewed articles. Findings from the review, strengths and limitations, and theoretical and clinical implications are discussed. Chapter 2 details a preliminary test of the effects of Attention Training Technique (ATT) on reducing problematic health-related Internet use in health anxious individuals. The empirical paper was prepared for publication in the Journal 'Behaviour Research and Therapy'. Thirty-seven participants identified as health anxious on the Short Health Anxiety Inventory (SHAI) and having problematic health related internet use on the Online Health Beliefs and Behaviours Inventory (OHBBI) were randomly allocated to receive either ATT or no treatment. Participants completed measures of health anxiety (SHAI), illness-related Internet use (OHBBI) and problematic health related Internet use (OHBBI) at baseline and three time points post-intervention. Emotional (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory), somatic (Checklist for Symptoms in Daily Life), and physiological responses (skin response conductance) to a health relevant stressor were also measured before and after the intervention. Analyses of Covariance indicated that the ATT intervention resulted in a significantly greater reduction in health anxiety, illness-related Internet use and problematic Internet use for health purposes at times 2 and 3 than no treatment when controlling for baseline scores. There was no significant difference in physiological arousal in response to a health-relevant stressor between the ATT and no treatment group but state physical symptoms improved at time 2 when controlling for baseline scores. Conclusions: The findings indicate ATT and metacognitive strategies are a potentially effective treatment for health anxiety and problematic Internet use, although longer-term follow-up data are awaited.Chapter 3 presents a critical reflection, including the evaluation and appraisal of the systematic review and empirical paper. It also appraises the research process as a whole and examines the strengths and limitations of the systematic review and empirical paper.
Date of Award31 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAdrian Wells (Supervisor) & Richard Brown (Supervisor)


  • Problematic internet use, internet addiction, impulsivity, metacognitive treatment, cognitive attentional syndrome
  • Attention Training Technique, health anxiety, problematic Internet use, metacognitions, Cognitive Attentional Syndrome

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