Mobile gaming may be next panacea for reducing stress, anxiety

Mobile gaming apps may be the next prescription for reducing stress and anxiety, according to a new research paper from the Assocation for Psychological Science.

The paper, titled "Mental Health on the Go: Effects of a Gamified Attention-Bias Modification Mobile Application in Trait-Anxious Adults," which the co-authors say is the first to investigate mobile apps use in psychiatry treatment, suggests that just one single gaming session can reduce acute stress responses when used in attention-bias modification training (ABMT). The study claims anxiety is the most common psychiatric disorder but only about 50 percent of patients seek treatment due to cost, accessibility of treatment and cultural stigma barriers.

"The goal of our study was to gamify an emerging computerized therapeutic approach in order to attempt to overcome some of these barriers, by making it more engaging and enjoyable for people to play," Laura O'Toole, Ph.D., of the Emotion Regulation Lab in department of psychology at Hunter College, City University of New York, told FierceMobileHealthcare. O'Toole co-authored the report with Tracy A. Dennis, Ph.D., a professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College.

Using mobile apps in psychiatric treatment is just one of the latest innovations in mobile healthcare tools. University of Cambridge researchers have developed a new smartphone app that promises to enhance the accuracy of colorimetric tests for diabetes, kidney disease and urinary tract infections. Mobile software is playing a big role in blood testing approach that uses a smartphone screen to analyze results in blood treatment scenarios. A recent poll of 1,500 physicians nationwide reveals 37 percent have prescribed a mobile medical application to patients.

Mobile gaming software in psychiatric treatment is being propelled by the increasing consumer use of mobile devices and need to reduce treatment costs. Mobile apps allow treatment to be completed anywhere and any time, such as prior to a stressful event, is unobtrusive in nature and doesn't require a heavy cost to patients, notes the report.

"Yet research on alternative delivery strategies that are more affordable, accessible, and engaging is in its infancy," the report's authors write. "Attention-bias modification training has the potential to reduce treatment barriers as a mobile intervention for stress and anxiety, but the degree to which ABMT can be embedded in a mobile gaming format and its potential for transfer of benefits is unknown." The report recommends future research on user acceptability and efficacy.

For more information:
- read the research paper

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