Healthy Living: January 28, 2020

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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - 20,000 Health and Mental Health Apps: A growing body of applications for your phone and computer offer assistance for a mental health, addiction, and health behavior problems. It is estimated that over 20,000 apps that relate to health, well-being, mental health, and addiction are currently available.

Health insurance prices are increasing between five and ten percent in West Virginia for almost all plans in 2020, according to Insurance Commission data.

Mental health research is just beginning to address the issue of evaluating which apps can demonstrate effective outcomes, and how to help consumer choose wisely if they are using an app as part their strategy for addressing a mental health problem.

What Do Mental Health Apps Do? Mental health related apps offer a variety of strategies to help people manage their emotional well-being.
• Track Mood and Stress: These apps often help you track your mood and changes in mood, stress level, and anxiety over an extended period of time.
• Engage in Guided Stress Reduction Techniques: Apps can guide users through stress and anxiety reduction techniques in a structured manner.
• Utilize certain psychotherapy techniques: Apps can remind people to use techniques learned in psychotherapy, such as challenging unhelpful thinking patterns, in the moment.
• Measure Progress: Some apps use rating scales for depression, anxiety, stress, or overall well-being that you can track over time to see if there are signs of progress.

How Do You Sort Out a Good App from a Bad App? Of course, good and bad mean different things to different people. Psychologists and others suggest that potential users think about three broad issues in evaluating an app that is designed to help with mental health or addiction: credibility, user experience, and data privacy.

Credibility: One way to evaluate an app is to determine whether there is any credible scientific evidence that the app does what it claims to do. Research may be done by the company itself, or by a neutral party. The question to consider about credibility is whether there is evidence that the app actually helps people achieve some measurable outcome, such as reducing anxiety or becoming less depressed.

User Experience: Like any app, a good mental health app will be relatively easy to use and be free from frustrations that make using it cumbersome, time consuming, and difficult to follow. Most rating systems for mental health apps provide information about how easy or difficult users found the app.

Transparency and Security: Using an app can provide the company that markets the app with information about you, your activity, and in this case your mental health. An important criteria in evaluating an app is the degree to which they are transparent with how they will use your information, and the steps they have taken to ensure that your data is not viewed by others.

Is There a Quick Way to Determine What Mental Health Apps Are the Best? In a word, no. Psychology and mental health science has not yet done enough work to determine what mental health apps are effective, neutral, or even harmful. There is very little regulation of apps, so users should be aware that in all likelihood, no oversight agency is making sure that only credible sites are available.

People who are considering using a mental health app can find information about credibility, user experience, and transparency at sites like Psyberguide( https://psyberguide.org/). Pear Therapeutics (https://peartherapeutics.com/products/reset-reset-o/) has one of the only, if not the only, FDA approved app for addiction treatment.

For More Information:
American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/01/cover-trends-innovative-ways