July 22, 2013
“How do you feel?” can be a surprisingly difficult question to answer, but new apps are making it possible to track the ups and downs of your emotional weather as easily as EKGs graph heart rate.
New fitness devices allow you to track your heart rate, the amount of calories you burn, your skin temperature and even changing electrical conductance on your body, so why not the ebb and flow of mood? A recent poll found that nearly 70% of Americans track at least one physical health indicator and 21% of them rely on some type of app to keep them updated on how they’re doing.
And since therapists often ask patients to keep track of their changing moods, behavioral triggers and other aspects of their daily lives, it only makes sense that people are turning to tracking programs to help with depression and other mood disorders. Not only does recording data help doctors and patients to better understand why symptoms occur when they do, the information can also reveal relatively quickly whether treatments— including drugs and therapy— are working.
It’s similar to monitoring glucose levels at home for diabetic patients, says Dr. Adam Kaplin, assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at Johns Hopkins University. Kaplin created a texting-based mobile phone program called Mood247 that is now licensed to Remedy Health Media, which has been beta-testing the app for two years with 10,000 people.
“If you just measured glucose when you came into a doctor’s office, you would provide terrible control for diabetes,” Kaplin says. Mood tracking provides the opportunity “to catch up mental health to where our colleagues in medicine have gone for a while.”
Mood247 texts patients once a day at a time of their own choosing. They reply with a numerical text of how they feel on a scale from 1, which represents their most negative mood, to 10, which indicates their best possible mood. “It’s so easy that you can do it in three to four strikes of a cellphone,” says Kaplin. Patients can also add descriptions to put their ranking in context.