Treating Anxiety & Depression With a Smartphone App

Two English universities have joined forces to assess how a new smartphone app can help people manage their psychological issues.

The Catch It app uses some of the key principles of psychological approaches to mental health and well-being, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), according to researchers at the University of Liverpool and The University of Manchester.

CBT helps people manage their problems by changing the way they think and behave, the researchers explain. It is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems.

The widespread use of mobile phones makes effective therapies such as CBT potentially accessible to large numbers of people, the researchers add.

The app takes users through a process referred to as “Catch it, Check it, Change it.” Catch it aims to help the user identify thoughts and thinking styles associated with a shift in mood or a particular emotion.

“This type of therapy cannot remove problems, but it can help people deal with them in a more positive way,” said Professor Peter Kinderman. β€œIt is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle.

“Our research examined the uptake and usage rates of this application, along with the faithfulness of user responses to CBT principles and their impact on reported negative and positive moods.”

A relatively modest proportion of people chose to download the app, researchers acknowledged.

Once used, however, the app tended to be used more than once.

The researchers found that 84 percent of the user-generated content was consistent with the basic concepts of CBT.

“There were statistically significant reductions in negative mood intensity and increases in positive mood intensity,” Kinderman reported. “Smartphone apps have potential beneficial effects in mental health through the application of basic CBT principles. More research with randomized controlled trial designs should be conducted.”

The study was published in the British Journal of Psych Open.

Source: University of Liverpool
PHOTO: These are screen grabs of the mobile phone app. Credit: University of Liverpool.