Thursday, June 9, 2011

Apps for Psychiatry

Robert Post, MD started publishing paper charts for tracking mood, meds, events and other information relevant to Bipolar Disorder years ago, but Optimism here is the first I have discovered that might handle the task digitally. I hope they come up with an Android app.

I have not tried Optimism or recommended it to patients yet, but I have started tracking my own moods with the T2 Mood Tracker from the National Center for Telehealth and Technology. I find the free Android app easy to use. It produces a graph to track mood, anxiety, PTSD, and head injury related parameters. A patient could show it to his provider during visits, but I would like the capability for providers to view the chart in real time with a browser which would allow more accurate viewing via Skype/Tango. When the app detects out of the ordinary entries, it suggests you make a note, which you can also save in the app for later viewing.

A patient actually introduced me to the idea of an (iPhone) app for monitoring sleep. I downloaded the free Android app Sleep Graph. To use it I must activate it, then leave it on the corner of my bed all night. (I wonder whether it can produce separate graphs for each person and animal on the bed.)

Two apps from Apple appear to allow you to address sleep problems:

ResMed appears to focus on breathing related sleep problems.

Sleep Hygiene seems to record total sleep time and other parameters for overall sleep monitoring.

What other apps have you found useful for addressing psychiatric problems?


  1. The Optimism app, and I know nothing about apps, sounds like it could be used as a biofeedback device. Whether you then learn to feel optimistic absent the true emotion to go along with it or not, that is another question.

  2. I kept track of my moods for a couple years, and also went back and graphed my moods based on my psychiatrist's and therapist's notes for a total of over 10 years. It was incredibly educational because I had not realized that I cycled so closely with the seasons and weather (not perfectly, but a very strong correlation). Drought? Bitter cold winter? Better mood, due to the extra sunshine. October and November are always the worst. . .But when I lived in the desert, my moods were just random. . . so a light box won't fix things. In this way, the information was very useful to me, because I can sort of plan my life around the seasons.

    The graphs also showed that no matter what medication I took, I cycled just the same. When a med seemed to work, it was because
    I started it in April and was due to feel better soon anyhow.

    It was also devastating to have compiled this information, to realize how most of the year I had very poor quality of life, for many years now. My psychiatrist pleaded with me to throw away my data because the information spelled out a desperately bad situation. I didn't throw it away. It doesn't matter anyway. Doing this educational project already killed my hope.

    I use distraction as a coping skill for depression, and mood charting gets to be a form of ruminating over my troubles, making things worse. I've never heard it mentioned how mood charting, going to see your psychiatrist, therapist, the social worker etc. can put too much emphasis on how horrible life is for the depressed person. So I wanted to add my cautionary tale. I don't mood chart anymore.