Smartphone apps may be useful therapeutic tool for adolescent depression, anxiety
PHILADELPHIA — Smartphone applications that measured conversation participation, physical and social activity and served as an online diary were well-received by adolescents with anxiety and depression and their parents, suggesting therapeutic utility.
“We were finding that many of our clients at our Youth Anxiety and Depression Clinic had smartphones and were on them all day, every day. It seemed to be an increasingly important part of their lives. We have them come in every week and they fill out some self-report measures. While that’s great, that’s not necessarily as accurate data as we would want,” Andrea Temkin, PsyM, a graduate student at the Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Piscataway, New Jersey, told Healio.com/Psychiatry.
Temkin and colleagues sought to assess feasibility, usability and satisfaction of three smartphone applications among youth with anxiety and depression. Crowd++ gauged the number of individuals speaking and proportion of conversation led by the identified user. EmotionSense tracked physical activity, phone calls and text messages. REACT served as an online diary where patients reported daily stressors and coping reactions.
Seven adolescents, aged 13 to 16 years, used the three apps during stimulated social and physical activities in the lab for one day and then at home naturally for seven days. Youth and parents rated the apps through questionnaires and focus groups.
Data indicated 75% of adolescents rated all applications as “acceptable” or “excellent” to use, while 25% reported “less acceptable” feasibility.
Approximately 62.5% of adolescents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that REACT helped them learn something about themselves and 87.5% agreed the app was easy to use.
Although 37.5% were “somewhat concerned” about privacy when using Crowd++, no adolescents were “very” or “extremely” concerned.
These results indicate that youth and parents found these apps useful. They appreciated the kind of information the apps were delivering and felt they were better able to link their behavior to their moods, according to Temkin.
“Smartphones are incredibly smart these days. In my ideal world, these apps will become connected. Once the phone has learned it is noticing certain behavioral trends via its communication tool (Crowd++), certain phone trends like calls and texts via EmotionSense and linking that to their moods they're reporting in REACT, one might learn that if you’re socially isolated and sitting down for 8 hours a day, you feel worse. Ideally what happens is the phone can begin to prompt the patient to use some of their coping skills,” Temkin said. “Before you even get to the stage where the phone can do the learning and the prompting, giving clinicians a better idea of what’s happening outside of the therapy room may be incredibly useful, so they can help patients problem solve and troubleshoot.” – by Amanda Oldt
Temkin A, et al. Usability and consumer appeal of a smartphone behavioral assessment suite: A tool to predict moods from behavioral phenotypes. Presented at: Anxiety and Depression Association of America Conference; March 31-April 3, 2016; Philadelphia.
Disclosure: Temkin reports no relevant financial disclosures.