In my last post, I discussed the use of ‘gamification’ in mental health treatment. Now we see another app, this time using game strategies to treat phobias. In this app, ‘Dr Freeman’ leads the user through a series of increasingly challenging scenarios involving an animated spider called ‘Itsy’. The app uses systematic desensitisation techniques that are the standard behavioural treatment for phobias.
The app has been endorsed by ‘Anxiety UK’. Read more here: Phobia Free app provides fun way to tackle spider phobia.
Also, in the Times:
How do you cure your fear of spiders? Get a web app–by Alex Spence
Published at 12:01AM, May 5 2014
Thousands of people who suffer from arachnophobia but are too embarrassed to seek help could now cure their fear of spiders with a few swipes on their smartphone.
Russell Green, an NHS psychiatrist turned technology entrepreneur, has harnessed his own fear of spiders to create a smartphone app that aims to cure users of the phobia by exposing them to increasingly realistic animated images.
It is one of a new generation of interactive apps that psychiatrists believe could help people to deal with “simple phobias” by helping them to unlearn conditioned responses to everyday situations.
Phobia Free, which costs £2.99, tries to help sufferers to overcome the fear of spiders by using a technique known as “systematic desensitisation”. Users are given coping strategies, such as calm breathing, muscle relaxation and self-hypnosis, for situations that make them anxious. They are then required to complete tasks on the app involving spiders, such as helping a spider caught in a bath to escape, and lifting up objects in a garden shed to find a tarantula, right.
Dr Green told the BBC: “The process is exactly the sames as if you went to see a psychologist and asked them to treat a phobia.
“I don’t think we’ve claimed that the app will suddenly make you buy five tarantulas, but to reach a point where you can tolerate them being in the room, you could maybe move them, and not pass on that fear to your children.”
Dr Green said he used to be so afraid of spiders that “I couldn’t even watch them on television. If a programme came on with spiders on it, I had to turn over.”
Peter Byrne, a psychiatrist at Homerton University Hospital, in east London, said that apps could help to address simple phobias. “They’re learning and challenging their beliefs,” he said. “The game [Phobia Free] is giving them a hierarchy: you introduce the object of the phobia in stronger and stronger doses until the person can overcome the phobia.”
However, he doubted that the app would be suitable for more serious panic disorders.