YOUR SMART PHONE AND RECOVERY

Technology has come to the world of mental health and addiction. Cell phones figure prominently in our lives now. They can also figure, positively or negatively, in mental health and addiction recovery.

The cell phone can be a gateway to positive help or an avenue to people who perpetuate illness. Patients starting treatment for recovery need to eliminate phone numbers of dealers and “friends” who use. They know that quick access to these people during a tough time can be disastrous. People experiencing depression and suicidal feelings may not use their phone often enough to call for help and support. They tend to isolate. Communicating with dysfunctional family members can exacerbate addiction and depression, anxiety, and suicidal feelings.

Why not use the phone in a positive way that supports recovery? There are many cell phone apps available now that can be helpful to people experiencing depression, anxiety, mood swings, difficulty with sleep, and/or addiction. Some are better than others. There is little objective research at this point to determine how effective these apps are from a statistical standpoint. However, as with all treatment, you get out of it what you put in. These apps are not replacements for therapy with a professional, but they can aid recovery. You have to find what works for you.

I am going to highlight some apps that have been reviewed online. There are many others, but these are recommended by several mental health sites such as Psych Central and Healthline. Most are free.

One of the most interesting is called Reach Out. It was originally developed for use by military personnel but is available to anyone.  This app is geared toward preventing suicide. It can be used by people who have suicidal thoughts and by family members or friends who are concerned about someone who may be suicidal.   For people contemplating suicide, it has several videos that suggest alternatives, give tips on stopping suicidal thoughts and combating the negative, all or nothing thinking that suicidal people have. It suggests activities that can distract from suicidal thinking. The app lists resources for more information about preventing suicide.  It has a Help Center that lists a suicide hotline number and allows the user to list phone numbers of contacts who can be helpful. Of course, people with suicidal thoughts have to be willing to use it. It’s probably most helpful for people who have recurrent thoughts rather than an immediate impulse, and who are willing to consider alternatives.

For those concerned about someone who may be suicidal, the app lists signs of suicidal thinking, makes suggestions about how to approach the person and what to ask. It also lists resources for more information about suicide.

There are several apps that are useful for persons suffering from severe anxiety and panic attacks. One of them is Breathe2Relax. It illustrates the proper technique for breathing during a panic attack. It gives step by step suggestions on how to deal with a panic attack. Another app for anxiety is SAM, Self-help for Anxiety Management. It also provides suggestions which can be used during a panic attack. These apps work best if you take some time to understand them. There are features that are simple and can be used immediately, but with some work on personalizing the settings, they can be more effective on an individual basis.

Depression CBT (CBT stands for cognitive behavior therapy) is only available for Android at this time. It was recommended by Healthline (healthline.com) as one of the 10 best mental health apps of the year. It offers an assessment tool that allows you to follow the severity of depression and offers audio programs that help with anxiety and depression. It directs the user to resources that help pinpoint negative thought patterns that underlie depression. Pacifica, which is available for IPhone, is similar to Depression CBT.

MoodKit was rated highly on several sites. It has a mood tracking feature and suggestions to improve mood as well as a thought checker to monitor mood.  However, it isn’t free.  It costs $4.99 to download.

None of these apps are appropriate for use alone when you are suffering from severe depression and suicidal thoughts.  You need to be in a formal, face-to face treatment, but the reality is that your therapist can’t be with you 24 hours per day. These apps can be helpful between sessions.

One of the better apps for addiction is Addicaid. It’s free. It has a check-in where you can disclose whether or not you used that day. Either way, you can post and get support from others. It has 12 educational sessions on various recovery topics. You can track your progress, get information on location of meetings and communicate with friends. There is a resource section with hotline numbers.

As I said before, you have to spend some time exploring these apps and getting to know how they work in order to really be able to use them quickly and efficiently.  There are others available. If you google mental health apps or addiction apps, you will come up with more.

So if you have a smart phone, utilize it as an aide in your recovery.