Depression is the most prevalent mental disorder in the world with millions struggling to cope with the condition. Consequently, mental health services, even in advanced countries, are facing tough time to provide adequate treatment. But, a new Study may prove to be a game changer in the treatment of depression.
The research on the efficacy of smartphone apps that provide treatment for depression, a first of its kind, found the apps contributing significantly to reduce the symptoms of depression. This might pave way for safe and accessible digital therapeutic interventions to treat the condition.
The study, which is published in World Psychiatry journal, is conducted by a team of researchers from Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), Harvard Medical School, The University of Manchester, and the Black Dog Institute in Australia.
The researchers systematically reviewed 18 randomized controlled trials which looked into 22 different smartphone apps that deliver mental health interventions. The respondents in these studies included more than 3400 persons of male and female genders and within the age range of 18-59. The mental health symptoms or conditions experienced by them included major depression, mild to moderate depression, bipolar disorder and insomnia.
The apps particularly found to be helpful to those experiencing mild to moderate depression. The effects on those with major depression are not yet studied widely. These apps mainly use either principles of mindfulness or cognitive behavioral therapy or mood monitoring programs. The study didn’t find much difference in apps based on their therapeutic methods. An ‘integrative medicine’ approach for depression, which uses these apps, can be particularly useful for improving mood and tackling symptoms.
One interesting finding form the study is that ‘self-contained’ apps or those apps that deliver interventions entirely via smartphone and did not rely on external interventions like clinician and computer feedback are significantly more effective than ‘no-self-contained’ apps. The in-app feedback feature such as providing summary statistics and progress scores had also greater effect.
The study, however, cautions that the results should not be taken for using apps alone for the treatment for depression. The researchers point out that study only indicates the effectiveness of app-based treatments. We don’t have no evidence as of now that suggests that it can be a better alternative for standard psychological therapies or reduce the use of antidepressant medications.