Behavioral Health: There’s an app for that
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). There are more than 1 million apps in Apples App Store. What do the two have in common? Personal Zen.
“Psychology professors have made a new game, Personal Zen, which can reduce anxiety in stressed individuals. All it takes is playing the free game for 25 minutes, according to research published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science,” according to lifehacker.
The game is very simple to play. There’s an angry face and a happy face on your screen. They both vanish into holes they dug in the ground. The player is then supposed to trace the path the happy face took with his or her finger.
The game is based on an emerging cognitive treatment for anxiety called attention-bias modification training (ABMT). Essentially, this treatment involves training patients to ignore a threatening stimulus (such as an angry face) and to focus instead on a non-threatening stimulus (such as a neutral or happy face). This type of training has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress among people suffering from high anxiety.
According to a story by NPR, “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.”