The most misunderstood and stigmatized disorders are often the ones that are also invisible. Physical injuries and disabilities are easy to notice and easy for most people to sympathize with. Sadly, this is typically not the case with mental conditions such as schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder.
While they may be invisible, such conditions can be debilitating. In fact, mental conditions are the most frequent cause of disability in the U.S. among individuals between 15 and 44 years old. Finding ways to better understand, treat and manage the symptoms of mental disorders could dramatically improve the quality of life of millions of Americans.
National Public Radio recently reported on a smartphone app being developed to help those suffering from bipolar disorder; a mental condition characterized by extreme changes in mood and behavior. Although most of us might assume that crushing depression would be the more dangerous of the two extremes, manic episodes can be equally if not more dangerous in some patients. During manic episodes, individuals often have impaired judgment coupled with uncontrollable energy.
Fortunately, there are telltale signs that a manic episode may be coming. One of these is rapid speech. The developer of the new smartphone app says that the software is designed to monitor speech in the day-to-day phone calls made by the patient with bipolar disorder. Samples of conversation are then sent automatically to a computer once a day to be analyzed for rapid speech that might be signs of a pending manic episode.
It’s unclear how soon this app may be widely available. But it is at least encouraging that technology which is already in widespread use is being harnessed in new ways every day. In time, we may see even more apps designed to help people with all manner of disabilities lead happier and more productive lives.
Source: National Public Radio, “Phone App Might Predict Manic Episodes In Bipolar Disorder,” Joe Palca, May 31, 2014