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Tracking Depression With Your Smartphone

Image from Khalifa University.

You may or may not notice it, but when you’re depressed, your behavior changes — enough so that your phone can tell the difference.

I read an article that recommended apps to track your mood. One of the highest-rated ones was called Dailyo, which is a quick journaling app that lets you track your moods by selecting emoticons. Once the app sees a pattern, it begins to pinpoint trends where your mood starts to drop, and offer suggestions how to raise it.

Such a cool concept! (You can download Dailyo for iPhone and Android.)

In 2015 I read a study from Northwestern University researchers published on depression and smartphone use. It turns out the more time you spend on your phone, the more likely it is that you’re depressed.

The numbers are startling: Non-depressed people use their smartphones for an average of 17 minutes per day. Depressed people use them for 68 minutes. (Honestly, those numbers are probably different for the 2020 crowd.)

“People are likely, when on their phones, to avoid thinking about things that are troubling, painful feelings or difficult relationships,” Northwestern’s David Mohr says in a press release. “It’s an avoidance behavior we see in depression.”

The other depression indicator phones can pick up on is location: Depressed people tend to stay home or in one location a lot more than non-depressed people do. It’s a matter of lack of motivation and energy, Mohr says.

Phones are an objective, non-obtrusive way to measure depression. Researchers say the next step is to determine whether encouraging people to reverse the depressive behaviors tracked by their phones can reduce symptoms of the disorder.

I really appreciate this study and these type of apps because of their ability to help people be aware of mood swings and periods of depression. I say you find the tool that works best for you, and use it! 

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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