Smartphone apps to reduce social anxiety

Or ‘beyond Angry Birds’…Harvard University researchers have been testing a smartphone app that effectively desensitizes users to a common fixation in social anxiety–hostile faces in a crowd. The app shows faces, hostile and neutral, stacked on the screen, which then disappear; then a letter appears which has to be identified which is an effective distraction. This is a test of an approach called cognitive bias modification, or C.B.M., that seeks to break some of the brain’s bad habits. Reports of anxiety dropped 22 points during the study of 338 patients. Other universities researching similar approaches are San Diego State and Tel Aviv University. The Therapist May See You Anytime, Anywhere (New York Times) also reports on Mobilyze, an app which uses your smartphone to track social interactions (or lack thereof) as an indicator of early depression. And the VA/Department of Defense has in the past year pioneered apps to help coach veterans with PTSD (FierceMobileHealthcare).