Phone App Detecting Anxiety and Mood Disorders

It can often be difficult to determine if an adolescent is genuinely struggling with a mental health problem or if they are going through the general emotions and angst of being a teenager.

Researchers at Rutger have been developing an app that is designed to monitor and evaluate mood in real-time. This monitoring can then be evaluated by professionals, parents and the child themselves.

The premise for the design being an app format is that teenagers are inarguably tethered to their smartphones and other digital devices all day so it seems a great way to reach them without having to change anything in their day to day routine. Everyday life can be monitored in the background and looking back for triggers for anxiety could be pinpointed.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 8% of 13 – 18 year olds suffer from an anxiety disorder and 11% of meet the criteria for major depression.

The standard measurement of assessing adolescent mental health has its limitations, as with many measurement methods in mental health. This new technology however provides a continuous feed of mood.

The actual app has several components. It has an electronic diary where the user gets prompted to complete it daily. There are also two sensing devices, one to assess social interaction and physical activity and the other tracks how many texts or phone calls are made. The thought of monitoring physical activity and ensuring that the teenager is interacting came from a father who wanted to ensure that there was no isolation in the teen’s life.

Preliminary testing has found that the electronic diary is helpful in distinguishing anxious or depressed teens from those who cope in healthy ways. The research will need further expansion but it is a promising start.