Are New Apps The Answer For Depression?

Andy Peloquin

Personal Training

 

Wouldn't it be awesome if there was an easy way to diagnose and treat depression? Something as simple as pressing a button on your smartphone and having an app alert you if you are depressed? Sadly, depression is far more complex than that. There are so many different aspects to depression, types of depression, and symptoms of emotional disorders. But thanks to a new series of apps, you may be able to receive mental health advice with the push of a button.

 

 

A team of researchers from Northwestern University has found that a series of 13 smartphone mini-apps might be an effective way to combat depression. The apps, called IntelliCare, have helped to decrease anxiety and depression among those who use them. There are a number of depression and anxiety-fighting apps already available on iTunes and Google Play. However, most of these apps focus on a single coping strategy, or they are too feature-heavy and lack the user-friendly design that would make them an efficient treatment option.

 

But IntelliCare offers a broad variety of coping strategies for dealing with depression and anxiety. Not only that, but the 13 mini-apps are designed to be easy to navigate, simple to use, and offer a wide selection of de-stressing exercises, mantras, and coping strategies for sleep, anxiety, self-criticism, and worry. For example, the apps offer a series of exercises to reduce stress and anxiety, a selection of mantras to encourage self-motivation, and even a list of activities to add to your day to increase motivation, satisfaction, and a sense of self-reward.

 

The app was tested by 96 people and was used roughly four times per day over the course of eight weeks. The researchers found that the severity of anxiety and depressive symptoms decreased by as much as 50%. These results are on par with the use of antidepressants or clinical psychotherapy.

 

What's interesting about IntelliCare is that it provides variety as well as a user-friendly design. Instead of being just one complex app, the 13 mini-apps offer a wide assortment of exercises, mantras, and methods for coping with depression and anxiety. The algorithm built into the app will recommend new features each week, keeping the experience as fresh and interesting for the user as possible. This will ensure a great chance for users to learn new coping skills, as well as avoid boredom.

 

The suite of mini-apps has yet to be tested on a larger audience, but if the preliminary research indicates anything, it's that your smartphone may soon become your most important tool for fighting depression.

 

Reference:

1. David Mohr et al., "IntelliCare: An Eclectic, Skills-Based App Suite for the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety," Journal of Medical Internet Research, doi: 10.2196/jmir.6645, published 5 January 2017.

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