Mobile Tech for Depression Detection and Management

Darina Borushko
Digital Content Manager
January 31, 2020

Depression is not just a touch of the blues. For someone depressed, life seems unbearable, and not just because of a “bad mood”, but also because of disrupted sleep, malnutrition, chronic fatigue, decreased activity, behavioural changes, and many other factors influencing the quality of life. And because at its early stages, the depression often shows itself as feeling down, sad, or upset — normal and healthy feelings — its diagnosis is quite problematic.

Meanwhile, according to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally. The disease is considered to be a leading cause of disability worldwide and can even lead to suicide. Considering these factors, the importance of early diagnostic of depression is undeniable. Nevertheless, because in most cases, the depression is not associated with physical pain, the majority of the people suffering from it are not even aware of what they are going through. So is there a way to detect it at early stages? For sure.

We live in a world where you can take control of many aspects of your life simply with a mobile phone. Today, there is an app for everything, and apps for depression detection and management are no exception. In this blog post, we are going to point out the major types of the existing apps for depression detection and management, show through which ways they help, define existing trends in app development, and try to predict how such apps are going to evolve. So let’s start.

How to Detect Depression with a Mobile App?

A mobile app is free from a human factor. On the one hand, such a feature makes it less effective in the diagnosis of depression, which is largely based on feelings and emotions. On the other hand, it makes a mobile app a perfect tool for early diagnosis, as it is possible to identify such red flags as a decline in activity, lowerings in mood rates, changes in appetite and behavioural changes with ease, in the convenience of a smartphone.

Types of Apps for Depression Detection and Management 

Although some of the existing apps for depression detection and management do not fall into the category of applications focused on the psychological aspects of human health (such as activity trackers, diary and habit trackers, apps for meditation), there is a variety of applications that take into account exactly mental health issues. These are:

  • Apps with depression & anxiety tests
  • Mood trackers
  • Apps with chatbots
  • Apps that identify feelings or troubles
  • Apps that identify fears and worries
  • Stress management apps
  • Apps that increase positive emotions through exercises and games

Current Requirements

Whatever is the focus and purpose, the best apps for depression management and detection are all united by the following:

Accessibility

Should be available wherever and whenever it is needed.

Affordability

Incremental costs should not be sky-high.

Confidentiality

User information must be protected and the option for anonymity should be included.

Convenience and Confidence

Should inspire users to take control of their lives and give them a sense of confidence.

Usefulness

Should organize information in the way to help professionals to make a diagnosis and determining a treatment path when needed.

Tolerance

Should be targeted at to whoever needs to use it, regardless of race, country, income, gender, etc.

Judgement-Free

Should be developed without bias, judgement or stigma.

Current Trends in Mental Health App Development

Development trends for mental health apps appear as the result of the work of researchers, engineers, marketers and when it comes to the best and most workable apps — practitioners. Such a combination of different opinions leads to the creation of applications that precisely address various mental health concerns.  As for today, trends in mental health app development are the following:

Self-Management Apps

Such apps provide users with feedback on information they put into it. These could be reminders of taking medicine, suggested exercises aimed at relieving stress, before-sleep meditations, and so on. The most demanded apps of this type are those that allow a user to track some health indicators such as heart rate, breathing patterns, blood pressure and other for further analytics and better, more personalized recommendations.   

Illness Management & Supported Care

The thing that differs these apps from self-management type is a human factor included in the app. In most cases, a human on at the other end is a trained health care provider who can guide a user and offer some therapy options. But there are also cases when a human factor is provided with supportive chats, where users can interact with each other.    

Chillout Games

Development of games for relaxation is one of the latest and increasing trends. Such “Chillout” games have the potential of helping kids with ADHD by creating a calming space for players.

Passive Symptom Trackers

One of the most promising trends and the upcoming future is best illustrated with this type. The idea behind this type of apps is a collection of data received from sensors built into smartphones for its further analysis. Such data includes records of movement patterns, vocal tone, behaviour, social interactions, and so on. Combining this data and analyzing it could help in catching such diseases as depression, mania, psychosis and other serious mental illnesses at early stages or when the disease is worsening.

Most Demanded Mobile Technologies for Mental Health Monitoring and Management

There are also trends in technologies that gain in popularity in mental health app development. Today, these are:

AR/VR

These technologies are already widely used in medicine for a variety of purposes, including education, pain relief, etc. When it comes to mental health issues, virtual and augmented reality can help in treating such disorders as social anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and even paranoid schizophrenia.

Chatbots

As we pointed out earlier, apps for depression management does not include a human factor. And this is where chatbots come into play, creating an illusion of human-to-human interaction, offering pre-diagnostic options, and providing recommendations.  

AI

Artificial intelligence in mental health mobile apps showed its potential in better, quicker, and more accurate data collection and analytics, and for this reason, its popularity in mental health app development will continue to grow.

Voice Analysis

One of the upcoming trends — voice analysis, will allow identifying signals of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and other mental health diseases by finding specific vocal patterns.  

At Elinext, we keep a birds-eye over trends in healthcare development and are always enthusiastic about applying the, into applications of our clients. Regardless of the complexity of the app you are planning to develop, feel free to contact us. Let’s take a step into a healthier and happier future together!

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