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How to cope with depression in the connected age

By Brian Reigh

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Depression affects 300 million people around the globe, but it’s not often talked about due to social stigma. That’s particularly concerning because it can lead to serious mental health issues and even death. As we enter the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, dominated by artificial intelligence and even more online-only interactions, technology can be both a blessing and a curse.

Multiple studies have already pointed to a possible link between social media and mental health problems, especially among young adults. But are there ways in which technology can help?

There are apps available to help individuals lead balanced lives. Some can even help people with depression monitor their symptoms and seek professional help.

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Note: The author is not a medical doctor, and the lists below are simply a brief overview of some of the possible causes and symptoms of depression and should not be taken as professional advice.

Why are we talking about depression?

Optimal Living Dynamics

Before we get to the role that technology can play in creating and alleviating mental health issues, let’s first go over why we need to talk about mental health issues – depression to be more specific. According to the World Health Organization, 300 million people around the world are affected by it, making it the most prevalent out of any mental disorders, and the number is increasing rapidly. Depression, as you may already know, can lead to suicide, and close to 800,000 people commit suicide every year, a high proportion of which are 15-29-year-olds.

In the United States, studies have found that roughly one in five Americans at some point in their lives will experience clinical depression. The number of people affected by depression is expected to increase by 20 percent each year and almost 80 percent of those affected will not seek any treatment whatsoever. There are a number of reasons for that.

Some may not be able to recognize symptoms and therefore are unaware that they suffer from depression. Many struggle with social stigma and a lack of effective resources. Social stigma often manifests as a negative public perception, as well as cultural and social invalidation of such issues (i.e. people with mental health issues are “just being dramatic”, mental disorders aren’t real diseases, etc.).

Experts agree that various factors can cause depression, including brain chemistry (neurotransmitters), hormones, inherited traits, medications, traumatic events, and substance misuse. The symptoms of depression are just as varied. Below is a short list of what a person with depression might experience:

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, emptiness, worthlessness
  • Easily irritated and frustrated
  • Anxiety
  • Slowed behavior both physically and mentally
  • Loss of interest in daily activities and hobbies
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Abnormal sleeping patterns: lack of sleep or too much sleep
  • Frequent thoughts of death and suicide

These symptoms could lead to school- and work-related issues, obesity, anorexia, drug and alcohol misuse, self-mutilation, heart disease, stroke, sleep disorders, difficulty in accessing medical insurance, and in worst cases, death.

Due to the widespread nature of depression, using technology to mobilize resources is of increasing importance. Google recently added a new feature to its search engine, which brings up a PHQ-9 test when users in the US search for “depression” or “clinical depression.” The search giant’s effort, in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is a step in the right direction but only a small part of what technology can offer.

After all, only 20 to 25 percent of people with mental disorders seek treatment. This is due to a number of reasons like cost, time, physical accessibility, and more. If we look at socioeconomic strata, up to 85 percent of people with severe mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries receive no treatment; In high-income countries, that number sits somewhere between 35 to 50 percent (Rosen, Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College). That’s why apps which help prevent depression, track and log your mood, and help you cope are very important. Not only are they affordable, but they’re much more accessible.

So let’s have a look at some of these apps and how they can help people combat different aspects of depression.

Mood Triggers: Anxiety Sadness

Developed by Nick Jacobson, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Pennsylvania State University, Mood Triggers is a mood tracking app that’s available for free in the Play Store. The app first asks you a few basic questions such as your gender, age, and ethnicity before delving into a more comprehensive list of questions, which ranges from “Have you been bothered by excessive worries during the last six months?” to “In this hypothetical situation, do you feel excessively nervous?”

Once the questionnaire is completed, it will ask you to place your finger on top of the rear-facing camera to measure your heart rate. As the app explains, you will need to do this once every hour for ten hours so that it can accurately plot its data and “help users find what is triggering their anxiety and depression by running statistics.”

Mood Triggers focuses on increasing one’s awareness of the causes of their anxiety and depression based on data from their own lives.

“Unlike other anxiety and depression assessment apps which may only log anxiety and depression, Mood Triggers focuses on increasing one’s awareness of the causes of their anxiety and depression based on data from their own lives.” said Jacobson over email.

“This can be very helpful for individuals because what is maintaining anxiety and depression differs …read more

Source:: android authority