Worse Anxiety/Depression Symptoms in Patients Adopting ‘Helper’ Role in Breast Cancer Internet Support Group

“In a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Lepore et al found that patients assigned a helper role in a breast cancer Internet support group had worse anxiety/depression symptoms after completion of the intervention than those not assigned a helper role…

“In the study, 183 women diagnosed in the past 36 months with nonmetastatic breast cancer who reported elevated anxiety or depression were randomly assigned to a standard Internet support group condition (n = 95) or an enhanced prosocial condition (n = 88). Both conditions included professionally facilitated live 90-minute weekly chat sessions for 6 weeks and access to a discussion board…

“The investigators concluded: ‘Despite the successful manipulation of supportive behaviors, the [prosocial Internet support group] did not produce better mental health outcomes in distressed survivors of breast cancer relative to [a standard Internet support group]. The prosocial manipulation may have inadvertently constrained women from expressing their needs openly, and thus, they may not have had their needs fully met in the group.’ ”