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Text Messaging for Bipolar Disorder

It was bound to happen — using text messaging to improve one’s condition. After all, text messaging is very nearly always available wherever you might be (while the Internet typically requires a computer to use it effectively).

So it wasn’t surprising to see that the use of such a text messaging system for bipolar disorder won an award in the U.K. earlier this month:

[…] Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and Oxford University’s department of psychiatry […] created a text messaging system for people with bipolar disorder, which enables them to monitor their own condition and keep GPs updated on how they are feeling. […]

Oxford University’s Prof John Geddes said: “I’m delighted that our project has been selected from so many for the NHS Live award.

“We believe our text messaging system is a great way of improving support for those with bipolar disorder, and it allows them to take much more control of the way they live with their condition. With this project, we’ve created something that can really make a difference to the way care is provided.

How does it work?

Staffers at the mental health center send out text messages once a week to folks with bipolar disorder. The client replies back with a text letting the staff know how they are feeling and doing with their treatment that week. If the client suggests there might be a problem, the staffers are alerted to it far more quickly than waiting for the patient to come in on their own or pick up the phone.

It’s genius in its simplicity because it combines the dis-inhibition of texting (which makes it more likely the patient will text back an honest answer), with a simple weekly check-in which can be helpful to people grappling with conditions that can be longer-term in nature (such as bipolar disorder). Plus, since the client doesn’t have to do anything proactively (the exchange is started by the staffers), it’s much easier for a person to reply to the text with an honest answer. (The alternative — picking up the phone to schedule an early appointment to come in to talk about a disintegrating mood — is likely far more anxiety-provoking and possibly depressing to many people.)

The article suggests that health organizations in other countries, including the U.S., are looking to copy the scheme. As long as it’s voluntary, we think it’s another positive option for folks to consider — especially if staying on a medication is important for the person’s continued well-being.

Read the full article: Patients Text Messages Win Award

Text Messaging for Bipolar Disorder

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Text Messaging for Bipolar Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 9 Jul 2008)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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