Managing depression with the help of your iPhone: Advancements that are making waves


(BPT) - Chances are, if you haven't been personally affected by depression, you know someone who has. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, affecting millions of people every year. In fact, an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7 percent) experiences at least one major depressive episode in any given year.

As common as it is, struggling with depression can feel isolating, overwhelming and affect all areas of a person's life. While there are many available approaches to helping treat depression - including talk therapy, medication, support from peers and lifestyle changes - because of the nature of the condition, patients often find it challenging to follow through on their treatment.

In today's digital world, advances in technology are opening up new approaches to helping patients manage their health, including their mental health. Interestingly, a 2014 survey found that 70 percent of patients being treated for a mental health disorder say they want to use a mobile application to monitor their mental health on a daily basis. Using a smart phone to track things like mood and behavior, even medication, in real-time is convenient and can make it easier for patients to identify long-term patterns in partnership with their care team.

The Moodivator app (currently available for free download to iPhones from the Apple App Store) is an example of one mobile app that helps to address this need for people living with depression. Developed by Pfizer, the app is designed to motivate people living with depression and help complement the therapy they receive by allowing patients to track their mood, set goals and establish routines that can help support them in their daily life.

"Goal setting in particular is important for people with depression, as even small tasks can feel overwhelmingly difficult. The Moodivator app ties into cognitive behavioral therapy techniques that I use frequently with my patients, since it encourages users to set, track and achieve personal goals in a simple and encouraging way across categories like work, home and family or social activities," says Susan Kornstein, MD, professor of psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, who consulted on the content and design of the app. "Goals are broken down into clear action steps, which are like smaller goals that can help patients eventually achieve their bigger ones. They can be adjusted over time and turned into helpful habits as part of an ongoing routine."

Kornstein adds, "Mood tracking, another component of the app, is an important tool for improving patients' emotional self-awareness. The ease and convenience of tracking mood through a mobile app like Moodivator can lead to patients tracking their moods more often and more accurately."

Beyond goal and mood tracking, patients also receive encouraging and inspirational messages in the app to help motivate them along the way as they manage their depression. The benefits of using the Moodivator app may extend beyond the person living with depression, and actually help their care team as well. "Importantly, the app includes the opportunity for patients to export and share their progress with their care team if they choose, showcasing their goal progress and mood patterns through easy-to-read charts," continues Kornstein. "This can help doctors inform care decisions, and ultimately impact the patient's overall treatment plan."

The Moodivator app is not a treatment for depression. All patients should work with their doctor to determine which course of treatment is right for them, and even when patients start to feel better, they should continue their therapy and work closely with their doctor until they reach an agreement to conclude the treatment plan. This app includes information about a prescription treatment option for depression.

This content is provided by Pfizer Inc.


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