According to the National Centre for PTSD, 7-8 percent of the adult population in the USA will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. These statistics speak volumes about the severity of the situation and this does not factor in the cases that would likely go undiagnosed.
The use of technological tools to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD is in high need and significant progress is already being made in that direction. Here are some ways technology is proving to be a huge asset for the management of post-traumatic stress disorder.
1. Self-help for post-traumatic stress
App development aimed at improving the wellbeing of patients suffering from mental health issues are being developed by mobile app developers all around the world. The apps are aimed at treating depression, reducing anxiety and stress, improving mood and boosting optimism. Mobile phones are always present in the patient’s reach and so the greatest advantage these apps offer is that they are accessible to the user 24/7.
There are a number of apps that are aimed at PTSD management, and there are certainly no bad ideas. Apps like Calm, Breathe2Relax, Mindfulness coach and Mood aim at alleviating stress and anxiety and engaging in self-help practices by the patients themselves. They let the users engage in mindfulness practices and grounding techniques like meditation and breathing exercises to alleviate the symptoms associated with PTSD.
The most popular mobile app is PTSD coach, an app designed specifically for military personnel and veterans but which can also be used by patients who don’t haev a military background. This app provides info about PTSD, includes self-assessment, opportunities to find support and professional care and tools that can help manage that stress of daily life with PTSD.
There are also specific apps aimed at targeting specific problems like AIMS – Anger and Irritability Management Skills (for behaviour and anger management) and Dream EZ (for tackling sleep problems and insomnia).
2. Availing professional help
The benefits of telemedicine in the field of healthcare mobility are immense and it is playing an important role in the management of PTSD as well. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 111 million people live in “mental health professional shortage” areas. This is why online or mobile consultations with professionals via telemedicine is the viable option. It is also helpful for patients who are apprehensive about the stigma associated with mental illness as telemedicine provides them with a secure atmosphere to discuss their issues.
There are a number of mobile apps that can be used as an adjuvant to telemedicine for treating PTSD like ACT coach (acceptance and commitment therapy), CPT Coach (cognitive processing therapy), PE Coach (Prolonged Exposure therapy) and CBT-i Coach (cognitive behaviour therapy). These apps are meant to be used in conjugation of a therapist for enhancing the treatment outcomes and helping the patient adhere to the treatment protocol prescribed to them.
Add Internet of Medical things (IoMT) in the form of wearable sensors to the mix and the doctors treating PTSD have all the symptomatic patient history at their disposal without having to rely on the patients themselves for subjective self-assessments.
3. Identifying and eliminating triggers
Exposure therapy is widely being used by physicians in order to help the patient relive the trauma in a controlled atmosphere so that it no longer acts as a trigger for flashbacks and anxiety. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality may have started out with a focus on the gaming industry but the technology is fast finding application in treatment of PTSD as well.
Exposure therapy also known as talk therapy is an ideal match with VR. The environment that triggers the anxiety in PTSD patients is recreated on the basis of what the patient recounts. The patient is then places in the provocative environment and the stimulus is systematically controlled so that the intensity of the response diminishes with time.
The advantage of VR based exposure therapy over the conventional one is that the patient does not have to go through the emotional turmoil of recounting the experience over and over again while talking to the therapist.
4. Providing resources for caregivers
Living with a PTSD patient can be incredibly stressful. From identifying and avoiding triggers to practising grounding behaviours around the patient, the friends and family member has to be under a huge amount of stress. Mobile apps like PTSD family coach equip the caregivers with information about PTSD and how to manage it.
It consists of tools to help with PTSD management like mindfulness exercises, networking insights, tracking of stress levels of caregivers and gives specific progress feedback over time. It helps the caregivers in their journey of supporting the PTSD patients by providing them with the necessary resources to do the same.
We are just scratching at the surface of the true potential technology has in the treatment of PTSD. It still has the potential to make further leaps. We would likely see a shift in focus from providing treatment after a PTSD episode has been triggered to actively diagnosing PTSD by analysing brain scans via Artificial Intelligence. Another application of AI could be the use of AI algorithms on the mobile apps aimed at managing PTSD and coming up with more effective treatment protocols. Chatbots, VR/AR and IoMT devices can come together with AI and lead to better management and effective treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. The potential is endless and we are just starting out.
Vinati Kamani writes about emerging technology and their applications across industries for Arkenea and Benchpoint. She is an avid reader and self proclaimed bibliophile. When Vinati is not at her desk penning down articles or reading up on the recent trends, she can be found travelling to remote places and soaking up different cultural experiences.