Mental illnesses are becoming less of a “taboo” topic than in the past, and as such, more information is becoming readily available about them. Because of this increased awareness, apps and technology concerning mental illnesses have been popping up recently.
One app has been created to help combat social anxiety. Designed by researchers at Harvard, the app is supposed to “re-condition the brain to automatically look away from, and not fixate on, hostile expressions.”
The app created to combat social anxiety “re-conditions the brain to automatically look away from, and not fixate
A phone, called Mobilyze, apparently has been designed to diagnose someone with depression. It picks up on different social situations, physical habits, and location. Using this data, it determines if you are on the verge of a depressive episode.
And even more recently, one that is supposed to help with the effects of OCD (though, at a hefty price of $79.99). The app uses a widely-used OCD treatment called exposure and response therapy. Users select challenges and exercise to help combat their OCD tendencies.
According to a the creator of Live OCD Free, Dr. Kristen Mulcahy, in a recent Mass High Tech article, between 4 and 7 million people in the United States have OCD and a large portion of those don’t have access to treatment. She said:
That was the huge reason why I thought about developing this app. There is such a huge need for those who don’t have access to a therapist.
But, is it a good idea to have people consult a smart phone, rather than a therapist, for help? Dr. Andrew J. Gerber, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, spoke with the New York Times recently about his skepticism about these apps.
We are built as human beings to figure out our place in the world, to construct a narrative in the context of a relationship that gives meaning to our lives. I would be wary of treatments that don’t allow for that.
Personally, I think that these apps could be helpful. However, I don’t think they should replace treatment with an actual therapist. They could, however, be great for a supplemental treatment, because patients can’t always be with their therapist. With Live OCD Free, it has been designed to be used concurrently with therapy sessions, and information collected from the app can be uploaded and sent to the patient’s therapist.
I don’t think anyone should spend all their time focusing on something like a smart phone, but these apps are pretty cool. I think that if they are used appropriately, many people will benefit and come closer to overcoming mental illness.