'
Jennifer Highland

The use of mobile health technology to support the treatment of anxiety

Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. However, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks) [1].

Anxiety is the primary symptom of several conditions, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic attacks
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder [2]
  • Symptoms of GAD
  • Restlessness
  • Sense of dread
  • Feeling constantly “on edge”
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle aches and tension
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Insomnia [2]

The two main treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medication. It is often beneficial to combine both. It may take some trial and error to discover which treatments work best for an individual.


Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or psychological counselling, involves working with a therapist to reduce a person’s anxiety symptoms. Sometimes, it can be an effective treatment on its own [3].

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. A short-term treatment, cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on teaching individuals specific skills to return gradually to the situations they avoided due to their anxiety [3].

Applied relaxation focuses on relaxing your muscles in a particular way during situations that usually cause anxiety. The technique needs to be taught by a trained therapist, but involves:

  • Learning to relax one’s muscles
  • Learning to relax one’s muscles quickly and in response to a trigger, such as the word “relax”
  • Relaxing one’s muscles in situations that make a person anxious [2]


Medication

  • Antidepressants – this type of medications influences the activity of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) thought to play a role in anxiety disorders
  • Buspirone – an anti-anxiety medication called buspirone may be used on an ongoing basis. As with most antidepressants, it typically takes up to several weeks to become fully effective
  • Benzodiazepines – this type of medication are used only for relieving acute anxiety on a short-term basis. Because they can be habit-forming, these medications aren’t a good choice if you’ve had problems with alcohol or drug abuse [1]

The Monsenso mHealth solution for behavioural disorders is currently being used to support the treatment of individuals suffering from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and borderline personality disorder.

Although there isn’t any ongoing research on anxiety, it can definitely be used to support the treatment of anxiety with in conjunction with CBT.

Individuals can obtain an overview of their historic levels of anxiety and try to identify the behavioural patterns that trigger their symptoms. Based on their historical records they can learn to predict situations of risk and take preventive measures to avoid or minimize any adverse reactions. Additionally, the Monsenso smartphone app also provides individuals with customized action plans and a secure communication channel with their clinic when they need it the most.

References:

[1] Anxiety. Mayo Clinic.
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/basics/definition/con-20026282

[2] Anxiety. National Institute of Mental Health.
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

[3] Anxiety. National Health Service (NHS) UK
http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/anxiety/Pages/Introduction.aspx