We are in the age of sensitivity. Having been bombarded with information thanks to the internet, we now have standards of how we should look, eat, live, interact and even have fun. When we fail to measure up, we find ourselves becoming sadder and sadder with each passing day and we eventually shut ourselves out. Why? Depression may have set in.
Depression, according to some researchers, has been on the rise in most parts of the world. Owing to this, web and app developers saw the need to come up with apps that can help reduce depression symptoms. The question is, do they work?
Indiana University Probe
Psychologists of Indiana University led by Lorenzo-Luaces, a clinical professor at the university set out to find out the efficacy of these apps. In their probe, they reviewed 21 previous studies that had claimed the apps to be effective. The study which was published in the November issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, had a total of 4781 participants.
The focus of the study
The study was focused on applications whose treatment approach was cognitive behavioral therapy only. Many of the apps claimed to treat depression but there were no reviews that had actually examined if the apps treated people with mild depression leaving out those with severe depression or those with additional conditions (like anxiety). This gap was what the Indiana University team focused on filling throughout their study.
The study itself
Since the study was a comparative analysis of previous studies, it compared how the iCBT apps performed against therapy wait list placement. In other instances the apps were compared to the performance of a fake app (that gives its users poor recommendations). In both instances, iCBT apps outperformed its competitors.
Lorenzo-Luaces apparently admitted that at first they had assumed that the previous studies had excluded people with severe depression. After their study however, science had proved that their hypothesis was wrong. This meant that the apps not only served those with mild depression but those with severe symptoms as well.
What is in for us?
As in all reviews, the big question is always how we will benefit as consumers. In this case, the iCBT apps have been considered to be efficient which means that:
- Mental health services have been diversified. With many people suffering from depression nowadays, our health systems struggle to cater for all of us. But with the apps at hand, people with depression will get treatment easily.
- Mental health services will become more accessible. Logistical issues can stop some people from accessing important health services. The apps can bridge this gap, providing services to consumers wherever they are.
Does this mean no more hospital visits?
In as much as the apps have their benefits, Professor Lorenzo-Luaces emphasizes that people with depression should not ditch their meds or one-on-one therapy sessions because they are irreplaceable.
Although the apps are “an exciting development,” for now, we can say they remain to be a supplement diagnostic and treatment option, until they become fully FDA approved.
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