People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) will have the chance to take part in a pilot study of a unique internet-based education program, which has proved very successful in treating several other mental disorders.

Participants will be able to log on to a secure website and complete the program at convenient times. There are six lessons over an eight-week period and those involved will have access to a clinical psychologist who will monitor their progress and be available for phone and email support.

The pilot, run by UNSW and St Vincent's Hospital, follows other online programs that have proven just as effective as face-to-face therapies for a wide range of common mental problems, including anxiety and depression.

"The program incorporates all the techniques shown to be effective in helping people manage OCD, such as learning to gradually confront feared situations and using techniques that aim to change the problematic thinking seen in OCD patients," says Bethany Wootton, a clinical psychologist who is developing the online treatment as part of her PhD at UNSW.

"What we're aiming to do is support a person to confront their fears and help them realise that they can succeed and that their symptoms will improve," she says.

OCD affects almost two per cent of the population (440,000 people) and is an anxiety disorder characterised by intrusive thoughts that escalate the problem, or by repetitive behaviours aimed at reducing anxiety, or a combination of both. Problems could include repetitive hand-washing, or an aversion to odd numbers, for instance.

"OCD can be extremely debilitating to people's lives," says Ms Wootton. "It often causes extreme interference with people's ability to function in everyday life."

A similar trial is also being run for those with post-traumatic stress disorder. Click here for the full story.

Both projects are being supervised by Dr Nick Titov and Professor Gavin Andrews, of UNSW's Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression (CRUfAD) at St Vincent's Hospital.

To learn more about the pilots, or to take part, check the website.

Media contact: Susi Hamilton, UNSW media 9385 1583