Therapists’ Apps Aim To Help With Mental Health Issues

NPR:

Games like Flappy Bird and Candy Crush have helped many of us de-stress during long waits at the doctor’s office and crowded Metro rides. But what if an app could actually help with mental health?

Researchers from Hunter College and the City University of New York say they’ve developed an app that can reduce anxiety.

In the game, called PersonalZen, players encounter two animated characters in a field of grass. One of them looks calm and friendly, while the other looks angry. Soothing music plays in the background. When one creature burrows into the grass, players must follow the rustling leaves and trace its path.

It’s not quite as exciting Flappy Bird, but the researchers found that it helped anxious people. We tried it out, and found that focusing on keeping track of those sprites was more challenging than we initially expected.

“What this game is doing is trying to train your attention toward the positive,” says Tracy Dennis, a professor of psychology at Hunter and the lead researcher behind the game. It’s modeled after a cognitive treatment for anxiety called attention-bias modification training, Dennis tells Shots. The idea is that if people can learn to ignore threatening stimuli and focus on the good, they’ll feel less anxious in stressful situations.

The researchers tested the game on 75 people who scored high on an anxiety survey. Participants who played the game for either 25 or 45 minutes were less nervous when they then delivered a speech than those in the placebo group. The results were published last week in Clinical Psychological Science.

Read the whole story: NPR

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