Today there’s an app for everything. There are find-your-keys apps, map-the-stars apps, even an app to help you hone your stapling skills. And apps exist to help patients with every kind of health care need, from managing diabetes to prenatal care. Usually, in an attempt to keep my smartphone use to a minimum, I avoid jumping on the trendy app bandwagon. But recently I came across an article touting an app to reduce anxiety. As a long-term, mostly recovered sufferer of chronic anxiety and panic, this article piqued my interest (and my skepticism).
While certainly not the first app developed to reduce stress, this particular app—called Personal Zen—has been tested by researchers who found that participants with relatively high scores on an anxiety survey showed less nervous behavior after using the app than those in a placebo group, according to a study published in Clinical Psychological Science. Developed by psychologist Tracy Dennis, a professor at Hunter College in New York City (and, it should probably be noted, one of the study’s lead authors), the app incorporates the concept of cognitive bias modification to get the user to shift their focus from a threatening stimulus to a nonthreatening one. More studies are needed to see if such an app would have the same success in those with clinically diagnosed anxiety.
Is it really that easy? If only antianxiety apps were available when I was first diagnosed over a decade ago. Back in that particular Stone Age, I had limited choices: antianxiety meds, talk therapy, alternative methods, or a combination of these options. I chose therapy and alternative methods and embarked on a 10-year quest to control the disorder instead of vice versa. I read books, employed relaxation techniques, joined groups, and challenged myself to face situations that caused anxiety. Employing these tactics eventually brought me to a place where I could live relatively anxiety free without medication. Read the rest of this entry ?