As our understanding of the frequency of mental illness has grown in the last few decades, so too has the need to develop new ways to combat the conditions. In the United States alone, nearly 44 million adults are affected by mental illness every year. Of this group, almost a quarter of adults experience serious ongoing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The statistics pose a unique challenge for those looking to develop treatment methods. In fact, over 25 percent of adults in need reportedly live with severe mental illness, and a comparable number of state inmates have a history of similar conditions.
With more than half of all adults with mental illnesses failing to obtain treatment, the need for innovative treatment methods has never been greater. Fortunately, the last few decades have brought us numerous medical advancements fueled by cutting-edge technologies. A number of these innovations have provided new avenues through which those with mental health conditions can seek the care they need, including the following:
Geographical location is one of the main factors that prevents individuals from seeking treatment for their mental health disorders. A recent addition to the field of psychiatry, telepsychiatry is a unique means of care designed to better help doctors reach patients in need. For example, those who live in underserved communities or rural areas can easily connect with their psychiatrists via videoconferencing. Not only does the medium enable patients to speak with their doctors at any time of day, but it also provides unique access to a wider range of psychiatric specialists than they would otherwise be able to reach.
In addition, telepsychiatry could help to minimize the stigma that continues to surround mental illness and encourage more patients to seek therapy. Some patients tend to be uncomfortable with seeing psychiatrists at their office and may be even more wary of fully opening up during a face-to-face visit. A patient-centered means of health care, telepsychiatry can help to remove these obstacles by allowing individuals to receive care in their own homes.
Pala-linq Addiction Recovery Aid
As of 2010, more than 23 million Americans have experienced some form of substance abuse, with the same number of individuals in addiction recovery. In an effort to facilitate an easier and more successful recovery process, the team at pala-linq created a one-of-a-kind device and mobile app that offer the support that these individuals need. The wearable technology closely monitors individuals’ mind, body, and spiritual activity, thereby keeping them and their support groups abreast of their overall progress. In addition, pala-linq helps wearers to meet their goals by supplementing holistic recovery with technological aid.
Pala-linq assists individuals seeking help for drug and alcohol addiction recovery. The company hopes to extend the device’s capabilities so that it may one day benefit those seeking to overcome disorders such as gaming addiction.
Virtual Reality Therapy
Everyone experiences moments of anxiety, which sometimes arise during tense situations, moments when we face our fears, or times when there are issues in our relationships. For some people, this anxiety can be crippling and greatly affect how they go about their lives. Those who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often experience the most extreme form of anxiety. Traditionally, doctors have helped patients manage this condition using either exposure therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. However, virtual reality (VR) devices have offered a new way in which PTSD patients can receive treatment.
For years, psychiatrists have used VR technology to deliver virtual reality exposure therapy to patients in the safety of a controlled environment. This enables them to put their patients into stress-inducing situations, after which they can immediately supplement the experience with cognitive behavioral therapy to help them overcome their fears. Until recently, these devices were not available to the general public due to the hefty price tag, but cheaper options such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have dramatically expanded accessibility. In the coming years, widespread use may also mean an influx of new VR apps that will better help patients with PTSD.
Fisher Wallace Stimulator
A device approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, the Fisher Wallace Stimulator was specifically created to treat symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Using a small, handheld remote and external cranial attachments, the device delivers brain-stimulating waveforms that induce the production of dopamine, serotonin, and other chemicals that affect a user’s mood. Instead of taking pharmaceuticals to treat their conditions, the users of the Fisher Wallace Stimulator can improve their limbic systems and neurochemical balance naturally. While patients may supplement their medication with the stimulator, they may also experience similar results using the device alone. With approval from a primary care physician, patients with mental health conditions can purchase the device for easy use in the comfort of their own homes.
Wearable Anxiety-Relief Tech
Wearable technology has experienced a dramatic increase in popularity in the last several years. From phones that measure the number of steps we take to watches that monitor our sleep patterns, this technology has changed the way we manage our health on a daily basis. A growing number of devices now serve to help individuals with anxiety disorders. While many of them analyze the same aspects that traditional wearables do, some have additional features that make managing anxiety easier.
One such device, Spire, moves well beyond the capabilities of activity trackers like the Fitbit. Once attached to a bra or belt, the device tracks the wearer’s breathing patterns and detects any changes that signify an increase in anxiety. The Spire iOS app then alerts the wearer to these changes and provides relaxing guided meditations to help quell their stress.