Science

Depression Treatment: New Smartphone Apps Designed To Reduce Anxiety

By Anne Dominguez , Jan 06, 2017 11:09 AM EST
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People can now seek help for depression and anxiety in one tap. A suite of 13 mini apps for smartphones, IntelliCare, proved its effectiveness on depression treatment. A study suggests the apps can reduce anxiety and depression as much as antidepressant medications or psychotherapy.

Major depressive disorder or simply, depression, is a mental disorder which causes low mood in most situations, low energy, low self-esteem or sometimes, pain without physical cause. The most typical time of onset of depression is on ages 20s to 30s. It affects about 4 percent of the global population.

In a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research on Thursday, Jan. 5, researchers at the Northwestern University studied the effectiveness of the apps on 105 participants. They used the IntelliCare interactive apps for as much as four times a day for an average time of one minute each use. Each participant used the app for about 195 times in a duration of eight weeks.

The results suggest that out of 96 participants who finished the study, 95 experienced about 50 percent of decrease in symptoms. The researchers added that this result is comparable to the results of clinical depression treatments like psychotherapy or the use of antidepressant medication.

Some of the mini apps included in the intelliCare bundle give instructions in de-stressing through exercises. There is also an app to help a person get a good sleep at night, create mantras to highlight your strengths and integrate rewarding activities to daily activities.

"Using digital tools for mental health is emerging as an important part of our future," David Mohr, lead author of the study said on a press release provided by Northwestern University. "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." He added that these apps can help millions of people who are seeking depression treatment but cannot go to psychologists.

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