New Apps Designed for the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety

New Apps Designed for the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety

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Highlights
  • A novel suite of 13 mini-apps called IntelliCare has been designed to tackle problems of depression and anxiety.
  • This app offers exercises to de-stress, reduce self-criticism, worrying and methods to make life more meaningful.
  • Participants can use the apps on smartphones for at least 4 times a day and experience significant reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Advice on mental health can now be sought on the smartphone using a novel suite of 13 mini-apps called IntelliCare.
New Apps Designed for the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety

On using this app at least four times in a day, participants reported significantly less depression and anxiety.

The apps offer exercises to:
  • De-stress
  • Reduce self-criticism
  • Reduce worrying
  • Make life feel more meaningful
  • Create mantras to highlight strengths
  • Learn strategies for a good night's sleep and more
The problem with most apps designed for mental health is that they either offer a single strategy to feel better or provide too many features that make them difficult to navigate.

Users often get bored or overwhelmed and may stop using the apps after a few weeks.

Depression and Anxiety

Depression is a condition where a person feels discouraged, sad, hopeless, unmotivated, or disinterested in life in general.

More than 20% of Americans have significant symptoms of depression or anxiety each year, but only around 20% of people with a mental health problem get adequate treatment.

In 2014, around 15.7 million adults equating to 6.7% of all American adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive symptom.

The lifetime risk of depression is about 17%. As many as 2 out of 100 young children and 8 out of 100 teens may have serious depression.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. It affects 40 million adults or 18% of the population in the United States who are at the age of 18 and older.

Anxiety disorders cost the U.S economy more than $42 billion a year.

Testing IntelliCare

The research team enrolled 105 participants for the study. Among them, 96 completed the study.

Participants had access to the 13 IntelliCare apps from Google Play and received eight weeks of coaching for the use of IntelliCare. Coaching included an initial phone call plus two or more text messages per week over the eight weeks.

During the 8 week long study, participants used the IntelliCare interactive apps on an average of 195 times. This means the participants used it four times a day.

They spent an average of one minute using each app, with longer times for apps with relaxation videos.

Findings

The 96 participants who completed the research study reported that they experienced about a 50% decrease in the severity of depressive and anxiety symptoms.

These reductions are comparable to results expected in clinical practice using psychotherapy or with that seen using antidepressant medication.

"We designed these apps so they fit easily into people's lives and could be used as simply as apps to find a restaurant or directions," said lead study author David Mohr, professor of preventive medicine and director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

"Some of the participants kept using them after the study because they felt that the apps helped them feel better," Mohr said. "There were many apps to try during the study, so there was a sense of novelty."

About IntelliCare

The IntelliCare apps were designed by Northwestern clinicians based on validated techniques used by therapists.

Some of the IntelliCare apps include:
  • Daily Feats- Motivates the user to add worthwhile and rewarding activities daily to increase overall satisfaction in life.
  • Purple Chill- Helps the user unwind with audio recordings by guiding them through exercises to de-stress and worry less.
  • Slumber Time- Designed to ease the user into a good night's rest.
  • My Mantra- Helps the user to create motivating mantras to highlight the strengths and values.
"Using digital tools for mental health is emerging as an important part of our future," Mohr said. "These are designed to help the millions of people who want support but can't get to a therapist's office."

The IntelliCare algorithm recommends trying new apps each week to avoid boredom and to keep the experience fresh.

The researchers hope participants will provide confidential feedback, that will be used to further develop the system and provide more personalized treatment.

Conclusion

"We now have evidence these approaches will likely work," Mohr said. "They are designed to teach many of the same skills therapists to teach patients. Different apps are expected to work for different people. The goal is to find what's right for you."

The motivation to try something new would have helped improve some of the participants who enrolled in the trial. Researchers have now launched a larger trial, including 300 participants.

The study was conducted by a research team from Northwestern University and published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

References:
  1. David Mohr et al. IntelliCare: An Eclectic, Skills-Based App Suite for the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety. Journal of Medical Internet Research; (2017) DOI: 10.2196/jmir.6645
  2. Depression - (https:www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression)
  3. Facts & Statistics - (https:www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics)
Source: Medindia

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