Stress: there’s an app for that

apps

Playing a science-based app on a smartphone for 25 minutes can reduce levels of anxiety in people who are stressed according to new research from The City University of New York. The researchers suggest that by turning scientifically supported interventions into game apps offers a new and more convenient way to get real and measurable mental health benefits for people who live with high levels of anxiety.

Need is greater than available services

“Millions of people suffering from psychological distress fail to seek or receive mental health services,” noted Dr. Tracy Dennis, a clinical psychologist of Hunter College. “A key factor here is that many evidence-based treatments are burdensome – time consuming, expensive, difficult to access, and perceived as stigmatizing.” The demand and need for private, affordable and convenient mental health services far outweighs availability on the market. Thinking outside the box and finding new ways of treating stress and anxiety is absolutely necessary.

As little as 25 minutes may help

The app is a game based on attention-bias modification training (ABMT). The principle behind ABMT is to train patients to ignore a perceived threat and turn their thoughts to a non-threatening subject. Ignore the angry face; focus on the happy face. After testing 78 participants and a control group, the researchers found that those who played the ABTM-based app showed less nervous behavior and reported fewer negative feelings. “This is good news in terms of the potential to translate these technologies into mobile app format because use of apps tends to be brief and ‘on the go’” explained Dr. Dennis. “We’re examining whether use of the app in brief 10-minute sessions over the course of a month successfully reduces stress and promotes positive birth outcomes in moderately anxious pregnant women.”

A variety of apps could be developed

Tests continue and other apps are being developed for other mental health conditions. “Our hope is to develop highly accessible and engaging evidence-based mobile intervention strategies that can be used in conjunction with traditional therapy or that can be ‘self-curated’ by the individual as personal tools to promote mental wellness,” concluded Dr. Dennis.

Source: Catharine Paddock/MedicalNewsToday, Clinical Psychological Science

 
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