Take Care of Your Mental Health with a Science-Driven App: Moodnotes

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Moodnotes is an app I’m passionate about sharing with others, because it provides a service millions of people need for the price of a latte. Healthcare in America sucks; and, even more so, mental healthcare is not readily available or affordable to the vast majority of people. But it’s so incredibly important. As someone who has bipolar disorder, I understand how difficult it is to find help that is actually helpful. While this app is not a replacement for medical treatment, it’s a companion that can make a world of difference. Utilizing the science-supported methods of cognitive behavior therapy, Moodnotes is a powerful app for tracking moods and improving thinking habits whether you struggle with mental health or not. I’ll go over lots more on what Moodnotes does and why we love it below.

Related: 8 Best iPhone Apps You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

Moodnotes ($ 3.99)

What It Does

Moodnotes uses visuals prompts to help you track your moods and identify common “thinking traps” we all fall into. When you log a mood, you’re asked to swipe up or down until the face on the screen reflects your own mood. You can then Quick Save or Add Detail, which is when the value of the app becomes apparent. Next, the app asks you, “What’s happening at the moment?” This allows you to reflect on where you’re at and potentially identify some of the triggers that led to your current mood. Then you select both the positive and negative emotions that describe how you currently feel. You can also give each feeling a percentage value.

The next part will depend on the emotions you selected. If you selected any negative emotions, the app will ask you to Check a Thought. The app will ask you to identify the thought that contributed to the negative emotion, then select the “traps” associated with the thought and feeling. Personally, I find the most value in simply reflecting on my current mood. Whether or not I find the traps helpful depends wholly on how self analytical I can be in that moment. But Moodnotes allows you to save your notes at any step, so you don’t have to go through the entire process if you simply want to log a mood and reflection.

Overall, identifying the traps is meant to help you recognize and avoid unhealthy thought patterns. Traps include:

  • Downplaying positives: minimizing or dismissing positive qualities, achievements, or behaviors by telling yourself that they are unimportant or do not count.
  • Mind Reading: Jumping to conclusions about another person’s thoughts, feelings, or intentions without checking them out.

That’s only two of the fourteen listed but you can see that these are thought patterns anyone can get stuck in; and I would argue that they’re thought patterns everyone gets stuck in now and again.

Why We Love It

Once you’ve logged multiple moods, you’ll start to see both Moodtrends and Insights. Moodtrends charts all of the moods you’ve logged for each day and visually presents them. Insights shows a few different things including your Moodpie, which shows the percentage of time you’re in each mood. You can also view the traps you fall into most often and the emotions you log most often. Within Settings, you can set a passcode and turn on reminders. The app also provides a Feedback tab, so you can share how the app is working for you.

What’s incredibly unique about Moodnotes is that it was clinician developed and designed to use the techniques one would find in professional therapy. Again, the app is not a replacement for therapy or medical treatment. And it’s also not just for people who have a mental illness; everyone needs to take care of their mental health. And Moodnotes is a great way for the everyday person to do that at very little cost.


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Spotify’s newest podcast is about mental health and startup life

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Spotify has launched a new podcast, Killing It, which tells the stories of those who have attained success in the cut-throat startup world while simultaneously battling mental health issues. The show is hosted by veteran tech journalist Aleks Krotoski, alongside therapist Petra Velzeboer and “mental health gym” owner James Routledge. Each episode focuses on the story of one individual entrepreneur, and examines how the stress and frantic pace of startup life can result in depression, anxiety, and burnout. The first episode in the six-part series focuses on Alex Depledge, founder of on-demand cleaning startup Hassle (now Helpling) and “proptech” company…

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12 Excellent Apps for Improving Your Physical and Mental Health

It’s a new year and many people are already failing on their 2018 resolution to stay active and healthy. If you have an iPhone or an Apple Watch there are many apps that can help you get back on (and stay on) track. Press the Right Arrow to Browse 12 Apps for Staying Healthy and Tracking Your Activity.

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A Single Gene Could Have a Huge Impact on Age-Related Mental Decline

The Mental Effects of Aging

As animals get older, the electrophysiology of their hippocampal connections begins to degrade. A new study appears to have identified the family of genes that are responsible, demonstrating how a single gene can have a broad effect on age-related decline.

The key component seems to be a protein called FKBP, which is responsible for calcium release within neurons. In the study, rats were injected with viruses engineered to promote overexpression of FKBP1b, and then observed as they attempted to find an underwater platform in a water maze. They were later euthanized so that the researchers could analyze gene expression in their hippocampi.

The rats who received the treatment were found to perform much better than control animals of the same age. What’s more, the hippocampal expression levels of over 800 other genes had been altered as well as the FKBP1b overexpression. The vast majority of these changes caused levels to resemble younger rats more closely than older rats.

Excessive calcium release had already been linked to age-related decline by an earlier study, where increased FKBP expression was seen to increase cognitive function in older rats. The new findings raise further questions, but there are hopes that it could lead to some new ideas in how we respond the mental changes humans experience in old age.

Brain Power

The next step for the researchers involved with this project is to figure out why FKBP levels decrease as animals get older, and what can be done to prevent this from happening. It’s been suggested that metabolic conditions or changes to other cells might be the culprit.

“Another key question is whether Ca2+ dysregulation is why aging is the leading risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease,” wrote the paper’s lead author J.C. Gant in email correspondence with Futurism. “In most neurodegenerative disorders age is a major risk factor and it may be that changes in neuronal calcium are a trigger for multiple diseases. This we do not know, yet.”

Of course, there’s a need for clinical trials to determine whether FKBP expression could be safely manipulated in humans. Gant is hopeful that such trials could take place sooner rather than later, given that we’re already seeing studies using adeno-associated viral vectors to increase gene expression in specific areas of the brain. A microsyringe would be used to inject the virus into the region where it’s needed (in this case the hippocampus).

“Although clinical trials must be run to determine the viability, the debilitating nature of memory loss in normal aging and extreme cases such as Alzheimer’s makes minimally-invasive measures such as this seem more and more viable with respect to alternative consequences of not treating the disease,” explained Gant.

The findings of this study don’t necessarily mean that we have a solution to the way our brains wane as we get older. However, they do offer up some intriguing possibilities when it comes to figuring out what is actually happening inside our bodies that causes this decline to take place.

The post A Single Gene Could Have a Huge Impact on Age-Related Mental Decline appeared first on Futurism.


The World Health Organization Identifies Gaming Disorder as a Mental Health Condition

Gaming Disorder

In 2018, the World Health Organization plans to add “gaming disorder” – characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior – to its list of mental health conditions.

According to the beta draft site, the WHO’s 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) defines a number of diseases, disorders, injuries and other related health conditions, which are listed in a comprehensive, hierarchical fashion. It enables the sharing of health information between countries and facilitates the analysis of “health information for evidence-based decision-making.” The previous version of the ICD was approved in 1990 by the 43rd World Health Assembly. The current draft that lists “gaming disorder,” is not final, nor does it list prevention or treatment options. The beta draft site, updated daily, is also not approved by the WHO.

The WHO’s impending beta draft for the next ICD classifies gaming disorder as a pattern of behavior with “impaired control over gaming,” in terms of its frequency, intensity, duration, and the capacity to quit. The disorder falls under the parent category of “Disorders due to addictive behaviors,” and is characterized by giving increased priority to gaming over other daily activities.

Applying to both online and offline video gaming, the condition is also defined by the “continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” In order to be diagnosed, these behaviors must be evident over a period of at least 12 months, according to the draft.

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A Matter of Contention

“The WHO designation is now generally in line with the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)’s description of internet gaming disorder (IGD),” Nancy Petry, a professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center, told Futurism. The main difference though, Petry said, is that the DSM-5 didn’t consider the data sufficient to classify IGD as a unique mental health condition. Rather, it’s categorized under “conditions for further study.”

The WHO’s decision highlights a schism among psychologists: some think the new designation is a welcome one, but others don’t see enough evidence to justify it.

Alexander Blaszczynski, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Sydney, Australia told Futurism he is concerned about “the absence of clear diagnostic criteria determining what constitutes a gaming disorder, and the validity of applying existing addiction criteria to a behavior.” He noted that there is a range of behaviors now being identified as addictions — everything from salsa dancing, to smartphones, to in vitro fertilization. “At what point does an activity transform from an entertainment to a disorder?” he said.

The controversy ultimately reflects some deeper philosophical debates that have dogged most areas of medicine for many years, Ronald Pies, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine, told Futurism. “What should or should not count as “disease” or “disorder”? Do we require physiological, biochemical, or neurological “markers” of a putative disease entity in order to validate it, or is it sufficient to document substantial impairment and dysfunction in activities of daily living, responsibilities, etc., as the WHO criteria emphasize?”

Chris Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Stetson University in Florida told Futurism that he does not support the WHO’s designation. “Basically I don’t think the research is there yet to support this as a diagnosis and there is considerable risk of harm due to a “junk diagnosis.”

He said research suggests what we’re calling “gaming disorder” isn’t really a solitary diagnosis. Ferguson said some people certainly overdo gaming, as others may “overdo” or develop addictions to myriad other activities like shopping, exercise, and sex. “But the data we have suggests that usually individuals have a preexisting mental health condition like depression or anxiety first, then use these activities as coping mechanisms.”

Pies said he shared many of Ferguson’s concerns, saying he was “more skeptical than not” of the designation. “While some recent neurophysiological studies suggest that IGD may be a discrete disorder, there is still no scientific consensus on this point. It is unclear whether IGD is truly a “stand alone” condition; whether it is mostly explained by other underlying conditions, such as anxious or depressive disorders; or whether it is merely a subtype of so-called “behavioral addictions”, which are themselves sources of scientific controversy,” Pies said.

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Others, like Douglas Gentile, a psychology professor at Iowa State University, see this as a big step in the right direction. Gentile compared where we are with gaming “addiction” as “similar to where we were with alcoholism in the 1960s.” At that time, alcoholism was considered a moral failing — people thought ‘it’s your own damn fault,’” he told Futurism. “It took another 30 years for people to agree that a medical model for alcoholism makes sense and now people can get the help they need.”

Gentile doesn’t think our culture is ready to accept the medical model of video gaming, and still sees it as a moral failing — mostly by the children’s parents. “We have lots of people who could be helped, but aren’t being helped. If you walk into a doctor or psychiatrist’s office, they either won’t treat it or you have to pay out of pocket.”

Ferguson isn’t sure “why the WHO is so obsessed with gaming when a wide range of behaviors can be overdone.” Given that other potential addictions, like food or sex, have as much research as gaming, it seems likely that the WHO’s kneejerk reaction comes from a broader moral panic over video games and technology, he said.

But Gentile counters that the WHO’s acknowledgement that video gaming could be a problem “puts truth back on the table,” Gentile said. “We need to treat games with more respect. We play them because we want to be affected, but then say they have no effects.”

Access Is a Predictor Of Addiction

As our video game experience expands with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), the argument gets even murkier. “One thing that we do know about addictions, generally, is that the number one predictor [for] if you’re going to become an addict is access,” said Gentile. “If you can’t get drugs, you can’t become addicted to them. Now that we’ve made gaming this ubiquitous — on phones, with gaming tech and VR tech in-house — we’ve made access open to everyone.”

Gentile isn’t certain that VR games are more addicting than their traditional counterparts. “We don’t know if greater immersion makes the games more addictive. To say that VR will be more addictive is making the argument that seeing things in three dimensions is more addictive than seeing them in two.” But he added that we we don’t have the scientific evidence to support that.

Scientists do tend to agree on one thing: that the designation will ensure researchers pay more attention to the problems that can arise from excessive gaming. “It is important that people with this condition receive help, and that research progresses in a manner consistent with state of the art science applied toward other mental health conditions,” said UCONN’s Nancy Petry.

Moreover, the WHO designation could help those diagnosed with video gaming disorder in another way: if they’re able to access treatment, it could be covered by insurance. However, Ronald Pies warned that “social goods” of this sort do not amount to a scientific justification for a disease category, and even among supporters of the diagnosis, there is no consensus regarding what the effective “treatment” would be.

The post The World Health Organization Identifies Gaming Disorder as a Mental Health Condition appeared first on Futurism.


This app gives you 24/7 access to mental health care professionals

More than 40 million people in the US alone suffer from depression and anxiety. Less than 15 percent of those will receive treatment. To call this an epidemic would be an understatement. One company, Ginger.io, is hoping to make a difference through its app, which brings professional mental healthcare to anyone with a smartphone. Ginger.io is a licensed healthcare practice with a nationwide medical practice. It’s app allows people to get immediate access to mental health professionals that range from coaches who use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) guidelines, to practicing doctors who can write prescriptions. With the app, users can…

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We May Have Uncovered the First Mental Exercise to Prevent Dementia

Brain Training

Among the brain diseases associated with aging, there are none quite like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Globally, the prevalence of both neurodegenerative diseases is alarming. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, almost 50 million people suffer from dementia worldwide, while some 44 million people were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016 alone. These figures make it especially crucial to find cures, or at least better treatments and preventative measures, for both.

Enter the Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine, which conducted a mental exercise program facilitated by a team of researchers from the University of South Florida, Pennsylvania State University, and Moderna Therapeutic, under the leadership of psychiatry professor Frederick W. Unverzagt.

The results of this Advanced Cognitive Training in Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) program, which they published in the journal Alzheimer & Dementia Translational Research and Clinical Interventions, showed that cognitive training known as speed processing was capable of significantly lowering the risk of developing dementia among the 2,802 older adults who participated.

Within this study, the speed processing involved 10 one-hour sessions, spread out over a period of five to six weeks. Adults aged 65 years and older were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups, three of which involved practicing strategies meant to improve cognitive function — like memory and problem solving — and the fourth group served as a control.

Assessments were done after one, two, three, five, and then 10 years, with only 1,220 participants completing the full assessment cycle because of attrition due to a variety of reasons, including death. Throughout the 10-year period, only 260 participants developed dementia, which showed that the risks for getting the disease was 29 percent lower than for those in the control group.

Boosting Hopes

While 29 percent may not seem like much, it is a significant statistic that shows that it is possible, at least in part, to prevent against Alzheimer’s and dementia. At the very least, the researchers believe that it supports the notion that staying mentally active is essential as a person ages.

“It’s completely consistent with a large literature that talks about the beneficial effects of engagement, broadly considered, from an occupational standpoint, interpersonal engagement, leisure activity engagement,” Unverzagt explained in a Q&A blog post. “All of that epidemiological research has found support for the idea that those things are helpful to brain health, and in terms of risk for later development of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, engagement with those things is associated with a lower risk. It’s quite consistent with that literature.”

Unverzagt, however, admitted that the results of the program have limitations, particularly because there were a relatively small number of patients who participated, despite the study being quite extensive in monitoring progress over 10 years. “We would consider this a relatively small dose of training, a low intensity intervention. The persistence – the durability of the effect was impressive,” he said in an IU press release.

More research is definitely warranted, which could include further determining whether the effects of speed processing could be attributed to the different methodology used or the different types of thinking the cognitive training focused on. “Our study can’t separate those. That would be an area to explore in future research,” Unverzagt said in the Q&A post.

The post We May Have Uncovered the First Mental Exercise to Prevent Dementia appeared first on Futurism.


Machine Learning Is Aiding in the Fight Against Mental Illness

Reading How the Brain Reacts

Living in a modern age, one would think that suicide would be a less common occurrence. Sadly, that isn’t the case, and the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that worldwide suicide rates have increased by 60 percent in the last 45 years. Current statistics show that some one million people die from suicide each year, and the WHO anticipates that by 2020 global suicide rate will have increased from one every 40 seconds we see today to one every 20 seconds. That’s incredibly alarming.

That’s why a team of researchers from several institutions including Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard University developed a machine learning algorithm trained to understand neural representations of suicidal behavior, and it works with a regular functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The researchers tested their technique in 17 patients with suicidal ideation and in 17 more that served as control. They looked for these suicidal brain patterns by watching how the patients’ brains reacted when they were presented with six keywords: death, cruelty, trouble, carefree, good, and praise.The algorithm was able to accurately identify 15 out of the 17 patients with suicidal ideation, and 16 out of the 17 control, using just the MRI scans of their brains, for an overall accuracy rate of 91 percent. The results of their study has been published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, while MedPage Today publishing a video that discusses these findings.

AI, Machine Learning, and Mental Health

At present, the best way to anticipate suicidal behavior is to directly ask a person if he’s ever thought about it. However, that’s not entirely accurate, as studies have shown that almost 80 percent of people who committed suicide denied having had suicidal tendencies during their last appointment with a mental health professional. This new algorithm can help address this issue.

It isn’t the first to use artificial intelligence (AI) to identify suicidal persons—for example, there’s Facebook’s AI and one that uses verbal and non-verbal language to spot suicidal behavior. Yet, this new algorithm offers a unique vantage point. It proves that there are differences in the brains of persons with suicidal ideation compared to those without, and these differences can be spotted with this machine learning and MRI combo. It’s not without limitations, however.

Predictive AI: Seeing Through the Chaos
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One problem with this technique is it requires the use of an MRI, which’ll be difficult to implement within the confines of a regular therapist’s office “It would be nice to see if we could possibly do this using EEG, if we could assess the thought alterations with EEG. It would be enormously cheaper. More widely used,” lead researcher Dr. Marcel Just from Carnegie Mellon told Yale University’s Francis Perry Wilson in the MedPage Today video.

Just also identified an even more crucial limitation. “If somebody didn’t want others to know what they are thinking, they can certainly block that method. They can not cooperate,” he explained. “I don’t think we have a way to get at people’s thoughts against their will.”

Still, for a mental health issue that’s as critical as suicide, machine learning might just provide a much needed help that could save the lives of more people.

The post Machine Learning Is Aiding in the Fight Against Mental Illness appeared first on Futurism.


Concrn is a 911 alternative that helps people during mental health crises

 Eighty percent of the calls the San Francisco Police Department receives are related to mental health, but the police are oftentimes not the best people to respond to those situations. That’s where non-profit startup Concrn comes in. Concrn is a mobile app that enables people to help those experiencing mental health crises by connecting them with compassionate responders. Since launching… Read More
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The expert who helped write the mental disorders manual explains why Trump doesn’t have one

There are a few options for people who want to see President Donald Trump removed from office. There are plenty of calls for impeachment over his various scandals. There’s the ongoing investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia, led by Robert Mueller. And then there’s the effort to remove the president by diagnosing him with a personality disorder and invoking the 25th Amendment, which allows Congress to remove presidents deemed unfit to lead.

Law experts say this is unlikely to happen. Dr. Allen Frances says it shouldn’t happen. Frances is a well-known psychiatrist who literally wrote the book on personality disorders, and he’s been vocal in stating that Trump does not have one. Trump should be removed, according to Frances in his new…

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