When you use the words “technology” and “anxiety” in the same sentence, you’re probably making a positive correlation. The more technology evolves, the more our anxiety spirals out of control. Studies have shown that social media increases anxiety. Shows like Black Mirror feed off our technophobia – especially the idea that our addiction to technology is like a drug that only makes us feel worse.
However, in the past few years, many tech startups have recognised the potential to use technology to cure anxiety. One manifestation is simply in an emphasis on technological security. Companies are trying to make the internet a safer place, so that we don’t have to constantly fear that we’re being watched (and if you’re looking to secure your data, you should take a look at this NordVPN review).
But startups are not just trying to calm us down by protecting us from technology. They’re actually creating innovations that tackle anxiety, combining psychological principles with technological advancements.
Accessibility is just the start
The most obvious way tech startups are tackling anxiety is by making mental health resources far more accessible. Teletherapy makes the psychologist’s couch available to those who would not usually be able to afford it, or are reluctant to take the plunge. Chatbots give people the chance to speak with complete anonymity, and provide easily digestible chunks of CBT-based advice.
But accessibility is just the start. Some of the most innovative startups are finding ways to be there with you as you actively challenge your anxiety.
Augmented reality (kind of)
Augmented reality (AR) is becoming increasingly popular, especially since Apple released its AR developers’ kit. AR augments what’s on your phone with real life around you. And some mental health tech startups are doing the same, albeit on a more abstract level.
Take the Youper app, for example. It works by seamlessly becoming a part of your day-to-day life, guiding you through situations in your real life environment to help you overcome some of your insecurities. It gives you tasks to carry out, based on your level of anxiety, readiness to take the plunge, and wherever you happen to be. It helps you through the task (which can be as simple as giving a waiter a compliment, or more difficult, like having a complete conversation with a stranger).
This sort of approach subverts the stereotyped impact of technology on our lives. Instead of removing us from the “real” world, it immerses us in it more fully.
Supplementing the therapy process
Finally, we come to another set of tech innovations: those that supplement the process of therapy or other mental health programmes. These startups create apps that allow therapists to give their clients something to take out into the world, that will help them continue their process between sessions. This may take the form of CBT or mindfulness exercises, or mood trackers to help get clarity on the client’s day-to-day progress.
Startups like inRecovery do the same for addiction rehabilitation centres. inRecovery helps staff and patients in rehab to track their progress, and gives them something to work with once they leave the centre. Instead of being out on their own, they can now share their progress with their counsellors, as well as follow activities and guidelines that help them keep their recovery on track.
Ultimately, this technology addresses age-old problems with new innovations. Anxiety and technology do not have to have that negative association. Instead of compounding anxiety, technology can provide the tools to put it to rest.