Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mental health on the go: Reducing anxiety with smartphone app

Date:
March 18, 2014
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Playing a science-based mobile gaming app for 25 minutes can reduce anxiety in stressed individuals, according to research. The study suggests that 'gamifying' a scientifically-supported intervention could offer measurable mental health and behavioral benefits for people with relatively high levels of anxiety. The game is based on an emerging cognitive treatment for anxiety called attention-bias modification training. The treatment involves training patients to ignore a threatening stimulus (such as an angry face) and to focus instead on a non-threatening stimulus (such as a neutral or happy face). This type of training has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress among people suffering from high anxiety.

Playing a science-based mobile gaming app for 25 minutes can reduce anxiety in stressed individuals, according to research published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Related Articles


The study suggests that "gamifying" a scientifically-supported intervention could offer measurable mental health and behavioral benefits for people with relatively high levels of anxiety.

"Millions of people suffering from psychological distress fail to seek or receive mental health services. A key factor here is that many evidence-based treatments are burdensome -- time consuming, expensive, difficult to access, and perceived as stigmatizing," says lead researcher Tracy Dennis of Hunter College.

"Given this concerning disparity between need and accessibility of services, it is crucial for psychological researchers to develop alternative treatment delivery systems that are more affordable, accessible, and engaging."

That's where the mobile app comes in.

The game is based on an emerging cognitive treatment for anxiety called attention-bias modification training (ABMT). Essentially, this treatment involves training patients to ignore a threatening stimulus (such as an angry face) and to focus instead on a non-threatening stimulus (such as a neutral or happy face). This type of training has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress among people suffering from high anxiety.

In the study, about 75 participants -- who all scored relatively high on an anxiety survey -- were required to follow two characters around on the screen, tracing their paths as quickly and accurately as possible.

After playing the game for either 25 or 45 minutes, the participants were asked to give a short speech to the researchers while being recorded on video -- an especially stressful situation for these participants.

The videos revealed that participants who played the ABMT-based version of the game showed less nervous behavior and speech during their talk and reported less negative feelings afterward than those in the placebo group.

"Even the 'short dosage' of the app -- about 25 minutes -- had potent effects on anxiety and stress measured in the lab," explains Dennis, who co-authored the study with Laura O'Toole of The City University of New York. "This is good news in terms of the potential to translate these technologies into mobile app format because use of apps tends to be brief and 'on the go.'"

The researchers are currently investigating whether even shorter stints of play -- similar to how we normally play other smartphone games -- would have the same anxiety-reducing effect.

"We're examining whether use of the app in brief 10-minute sessions over the course of a month successfully reduces stress and promotes positive birth outcomes in moderately anxious pregnant women," Dennis says.

While it's unclear whether this app would produce mental health benefits in those with clinically-diagnosed anxiety, it does present a compelling case for gamified ABMT acting as a "cognitive vaccine" against anxiety and stress. The researchers believe that apps could eventually be developed to assist in the treatment for other mental health disorders, such as depression or addiction.

"Gamifying psychological interventions successfully could revolutionize how we treat mental illness and how we view our own mental health. Our hope is to develop highly accessible and engaging evidence-based mobile intervention strategies that can be used in conjunction with traditional therapy or that can be 'self-curated' by the individual as personal tools to promote mental wellness," Dennis concludes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T. A. Dennis, L. J. O'Toole. Mental Health on the Go: Effects of a Gamified Attention-Bias Modification Mobile Application in Trait-Anxious Adults. Clinical Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/2167702614522228

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Mental health on the go: Reducing anxiety with smartphone app." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140318111900.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2014, March 18). Mental health on the go: Reducing anxiety with smartphone app. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140318111900.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Mental health on the go: Reducing anxiety with smartphone app." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140318111900.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

AFP (Nov. 27, 2014) — The Ebola epidemic sweeping Sierra Leone is having a profound effect on the country's children, many of whom have been left without any family members to support them. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Trial

Experimental Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Trial

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — A recent test of a prototype Ebola vaccine generated an immune response to the disease in subjects. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Advances in prosthetics are making replacement body parts stronger and more lifelike than they’ve ever been. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins