If you suffer from depression, you’re not alone. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports 322 million people around the world are living with some type of depression. The most common type is major depressive disorder. In 2015, around 16 million adults had experienced at least one major depressive episode. That amounts to roughly six percent of the US population.
Technology companies seem to be taking those numbers to heart as they develop new devices to help treat depression. These devices are also being used to help the medical world understand what’s going on in the brain as people deal with bouts of depression.
How is Technology Being Used to Treat Depression?
Flow Neuroscience, a Swedish-based company, has developed a headset and app to treat depression through electrical stimulation.
Daniel Mansson, a clinical psychologist and co-founder of Flow Neuroscience, tells Parentology the headset they’ve developed uses a type of brain stimulation called transcranial direct current stimulation. This is a form of neurostimulation that delivers a gentle electrical signal that activates neurons in the left frontal cortex of the brain.
Mansson says since people diagnosed with depression often have lower activity in this area, the stimulation works to rebalance activity.
“During this process, the user interacts with a virtual therapist via the app to specifically treat the symptoms of depression,” Mansson says. The app then teaches the user about depression and how to treat their condition using techniques to improve sleep, eat healthier and exercise.
Mansson tells Parentology the treatment can also be used in conjunction with other treatments to help those suffering from trauma and symptoms of PTSD. “Trauma is a particularly interesting area where a lot can be done to help those suffering, particularly following service in a war, or those who have been sexually assaulted or abused.”
Flow has been selling in the UK and Sweden since the beginning of June and is the first and only medically approved device of its kind in Europe. The headset is certified as a medical device and will be eventually be made available in other countries in the European Union.
A California company is also working on a wristband aimed to help people suffering from anxiety and depression. Feel is a therapy program that uses a sensor, app, therapist, and educational program to help treat its users. The Feel Emotion Sensor is a wristband that is equipped with a blood volume pressure sensor, a skin temperature sensor, among several other sensors that monitor a variety of physiological signals throughout the day. It then translates the information into four emotional patterns.
The Feel App evaluates recorded information to provide personal care recommendations. The user then gets help from the Feel therapist to help treat their depression and anxiety. Feel is now in the beta phase and has received positive feedback. No word of when it will be officially released.
Feel and Flow Neuroscience are just two of a growing number of products aimed to use technology to treat depression. While technology can certainly help people with depression, many people still need to speak with a healthcare professional.
Mansson reminds us, “Given the nature of the illness, it is recommended that users have a person to contact in case symptoms worsen.”