“Everyone is fine of recent therapy. I’m also interested, but I’m not going to pay for it. Mental health apps seem like a decent stepping stone. But do they actually help?”
When you first open Headspace, one of the most popular mental wellness apps, you’ll see an image of a blue sky. Instructions displayed across the firmament tell you exactly when to inhale, when to hold and when to exhale, a rhythm measured by a white progress bar, as if waiting for the download to complete. While some may find this relaxing, it’s a great way to avoid glancing at your watch, staring at your inbox, worrying about the future, and all those users whose minds are floating peacefully in pixelated blue. And some users must be wondering about their final fate. of a species that must be instructed to perform the most basic and automatic biological functions.
The World Health Organization reports that dyspnea, or shortness of breath, is a common side effect of anxiety and, along with depression, increased a whopping 25% globally between 2020 and 2021. This mental health crisis But it’s no coincidence that it coincided with the surge in behavioral health apps. (In 2020, he earned more than $2.4 billion in venture capital investments.) And you mindful aren’t the only ones questioning the effectiveness of these products. Given the inequality and inadequacy of access to affordable mental health services, many question whether these digital tools are “evidence-based” and whether professional assistance is effective. I’m wondering if it would work as a viable alternative.
However, I would argue that such apps represent a digital renewal of the self-help genre rather than a replacement for therapy. I promise mental health It can be improved by “self-awareness” and “self-knowledge”. These virtues, like many cognate virtues (self-care, self-empowerment, self-checkout), are imposed upon individuals at the twilight of public institutions. social safety net.
Of course, philosophically speaking, helping yourself is a nasty idea. It involves dividing the self into his two entities, helper and beneficiary. The analytical tools these apps provide (exercise, mood, and sleep tracking) encourage users to be both scientists and test subjects, paying attention to their behavioral data and looking for patterns and connections. For example, or regular training improves satisfaction. Mood Check-In asks users to identify their emotions, accompanied by a message that emphasizes the importance of emotional awareness. (“Recognizing how we are feeling helps us build resilience.”) These insights can be gained by people without the help of automated prompts. It may seem like something simple, like intuitive knowledge, but if breathing exercises are any indication, these apps are designed for people who are severely alienated from their nervous system. I’m here.
Of course, despite their focus on self-awareness and personalized data, what these apps don’t help you understand is why you’re anxious or depressed in the first place. It’s a question that one seeks to answer through therapy, and one that deserves to be posed about the mental health crisis across our society. I have a few things left to do.
Linda Stone, a researcher and former Apple and Microsoft executive, coined the term “screen apnea” to describe the tendency to hold your breath or take shallow breaths when using a screen. I was. This phenomenon occurs in many digital activities (see Email Apnea and Zoom Apnea) and can lead to disturbed sleep, decreased energy levels, or increased depression and anxiety. . There are many theories as to why prolonged use of devices puts the body into a state of stress. Psychological stimuli, light exposure, looming job email threats, doomsday headlines, and more. A fight or flight response.
It’s true that many mental health apps recommend activities or “missions” that involve hanging up. But these tend to be tasks that are performed in isolation (push-ups, walks, guided meditations) and are completed to be checked off, tracked, and incorporated into overall mental health statistics, so the app is the final An activity that should be fun in and of itself. This makes it more difficult to practice mindfulness techniques that are supposed to reduce stress. In other words, by trying to instill more self-awareness, these apps only add to the discord many of us already feel on virtual platforms.