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Anti-Anxiety Apps: Features for Bolstering Patients’ Coping Ability

Web and Mobile Researcher, ScienceSoft


Editor's note: Anastasia outlines the essential features of mental health apps designed specifically to assist patients with anxiety disorders. From stress relief techniques to breathing manuals and interactive activities, the article highlights how these app features can support therapy and empower individuals to effectively manage anxiety. Contact ScienceSoft if you want to know how to develop a mental health app that addresses anxiety disorders.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most widespread mental illness in the United States. Over 49 million US adults suffer from some type of anxiety, and only 36.9% of them seek professional help. What’s more, statistics report that only 10% of those in therapy get effective treatment.

By providing a patient with an anxiety mobile app, a therapist invests in the greater success of treatment. After all, a large share of therapeutic success depends on how successful a patient is in learning anxiety management techniques and following their mental care professional’s guidance in general.

Below are the app features that can back up the efforts of mental care professionals and help patients with practicing the techniques they learn in therapy.

Example of an anxiety app

Stress relief help

The main purpose of an anti-anxiety app is to help a patient overcome physical and psychological tension and relax. Yet, finding a working relaxation technique is one of the most difficult parts in anxiety treatment. Different things work for different patients, and even mental care specialists can’t always know for sure what will and what won’t help a certain person.

Anxiety apps offer a great number of features with various relaxation methods at work, letting a patient try them all out and find what suits them best. The features can include separate sets of calming audio tracks and visuals, interactive meditation sessions (that combine soothing music and images), as well as breathing technique manuals and gamification elements that we describe in more detail below.

Breathing technique manuals

Breathing is often the first relaxation aspect that mental care professionals explain to their patients with anxiety. However, a patient can forget everything their therapists told them about in a stressful situation. That’s where an app comes in and introduces an automatic breathing manual that shows the count on which a person should take steady deep breaths.

Since anxiety-induced hypoxia and hyperventilation are psychosomatic symptoms, it is often the key to convince a patient that they are doing fine. So, in addition to the counter, the app screen can show a calming animation of lungs being filled with oxygen. This animation psychologically persuades a person that they do inhale oxygen and are not suffocating, as people with such symptoms may sometimes feel.  As a result, a person starts to repeat automatically after the animation and calms down.

Interactive activities

Many patients find it difficult to relax until they succeed to distract themselves from the anxiety-inducing thoughts completely. Interactivity plays a huge role here since it helps to capture a person’s attention and change the direction of their thoughts.

Quiz-like tasks are among the common interactive methods for those suffering from anxiety. They ask patients to recollect and type down a specific number of things that, for instance, share a certain color or quality. Together with a patient, a therapist can customize these tasks to make question prompts generated by the app unique and involving. In addition, anxiety apps can contain actual games like puzzles, virtual pets and plants, or word games, which are both engaging and relaxing.

Physical symptoms trackers

Although all of the physical symptoms of anxiety are, of course, discomforting, some of them pose a bigger risk than others. Symptoms like blood pressure spikes or palpitation are dangerous no matter the cause and, besides, can scare a person, thus building up their anxiety.

Apps for anxiety can play a role of tracking devices that collect and immediately analyze health data: for example, a mobile phone’s camera lens can read a person’s heart rate. Special medical devices can also be connected to a smartphone or a tablet to allow tracking the results of more complex tests, such as blood pressure measurement.

Once the app automatically copies the data into the log, it shows an estimate: whether the results are unusual in comparison to those in the log history, and whether they are objectively alarming or not. If health measurements require attention, the app will strongly suggest contacting a health professional. It can automatically send a message to a therapist too.

In case the results aren’t alarming but still not good, the app will explain how a user can deal with the condition on their own. The instructions depend on the measurements and can include simple tips like having a rest and getting some air or extra medication intake approved by a mental care professional.

Medication plan

Since medication schemes for anxiety disorders often include more than three medication types in different dosages, having an electronic medication plan with medication intake reminders can make things a lot easier for a patient. And a therapist can also find this feature useful.

A mental care professional will first have to create an individual medication plan on their mobile device and then make the plan available for their patient. A patient will receive regular reminders for every medication intake and mark each pill as ‘taken’ in the plan. This way, a therapist can check if a patient follows the scheme correctly at any time.

What’s more, a mental care specialist will be able to make planned adjustments to the medication schedule: for instance, if the dose of a certain medication should be decreased after being taken for a certain period. After updating the schedule, a therapist can send a notification to their patient to attract their attention to the changes.

On a final note

Since the success of mental health treatment heavily depends on a patient, empowering them with mobile technology can speed up recovery. Anxiety apps that offer stress relief techniques, tracking of physical symptoms, and medication plan can help patients to cope with their condition and make steps to overcoming it.

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