An analysis on self-management and treatment-related functionality and characteristics of highly rated anxiety apps

Nidal Drissi, Sofia Ouhbi, Mohammed Abdou Janati Idrissi, Mounir Ghogho

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background and objective: Anxiety is a common emotion that people often feel in certain situations. But when the feeling of anxiety is persistent and interferes with a person's day to day life then this may likely be an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are a common issue worldwide and can fall under general anxiety, panic attacks, and social anxiety among others. They can be disabling and can impact all aspects of an individual's life, including work, education, and personal relationships. It is important that people with anxiety receive appropriate care, which in some cases may prove difficult due to mental health care delivery barriers such as cost, stigma, or distance from mental health services. A potential solution to this could be mobile mental health applications. These can serve as effective and promising tools to assist in the management of anxiety and to overcome some of the aforementioned barriers. The objective of this study is to provide an analysis of treatment and management-related functionality and characteristics of high-rated mobile applications (apps) for anxiety, which are available for Android and iOS systems. Method: A broad search was performed in the Google Play Store and App Store following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) protocol to identify existing apps for anxiety. A set of free and highly rated apps for anxiety were identified and the selected apps were then installed and analyzed according to a predefined data extraction strategy. Results: A total of 167 anxiety apps were selected (123 Android apps and 44 iOS apps). Besides anxiety, the selected apps addressed several health issues including stress, depression, sleep issues, and eating disorders. The apps adopted various treatment and management approaches such as meditation, breathing exercises, mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy. Results also showed that 51% of the selected apps used various gamification features to motivate users to keep using them, 32% provided social features including chat, communication with others and links to sources of help; 46% offered offline availability; and only 19% reported involvement of mental health professionals in their design. Conclusions: Anxiety apps incorporate various mental health care management methods and approaches. Apps can serve as promising tools to assist large numbers of people suffering from general anxiety or from anxiety disorders, anytime, anywhere, and particularly in the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104243
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Informatics
Volume141
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • M-health
  • Mental health
  • Mobile apps
  • Mobile mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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