Late Breaking News
Struggling with PTSD? There’s an App for That
From maps to the weather to tracking how far they’ve walked today, people are relying more and more on their Smartphones. “There’s an app for that,” has grown from novel phrase to punchline to a simple fact of life.
Now, there is even an application to help veterans suffering from PTSD.
VA’s National Center for PTSD, along with DoD’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology, have developed an iPhone application designed to help a person suffering from PTSD track and screen symptoms. PTSD Coach is available free off of the iTunes website and can be uploaded to anyone with an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.
The application’s welcome screen stresses that it does not diagnose or treat PTSD but educates a user about the illness and provides tools for “managing the stresses that can come with life after a trauma.” Before using the application, a person is asked to select friends, loved ones and professionals who can help when they are feeling stressed; pictures on their phone that are comforting or funny; and songs on the phone that are relaxing or put the person in a good mood.
Once the application is set up, the user can access four categories of help: learning about PTSD, self-assessing their own stress, managing symptoms and finding support.
The education component provides information about PTSD, its symptoms, the kind of professional care that is available and when someone should seek it out.
The assessment portion of the application leads users through questions about stress symptoms, including disturbing memories, dreams, flashbacks, physical reactions to stress, avoidance, insomnia and anger. If the answers are in the “moderate” to “only a little bit” range, then the application will tell them that this is a normal reaction to what they experienced. If many of their answers fall in the “moderate” to “extremely” range, then it will tell them that they are experiencing severe PTSD symptoms and, if they have yet to speak with a health-care provider, should do so immediately.
The application always directs veterans toward professional help. It also tells veterans that, if they ever feel like hurting themselves or others, they need only touch the “Find Support” button. That will give them the choice of setting up a support network or getting immediate help from 911 or the Veterans Crisis Line.
The application also contains help for managing symptoms. Veterans can choose from an array of problems such as “avoiding triggers” or “unable to sleep.” In the case of avoiding triggers, the application asks veterans to rank their distress, then leads them through a progressive muscle relaxation exercise. If veterans indicate they are sad or feel hopeless, the application leads them to choose activities they enjoy or directs them to choose a person from their contact list to meet up with to help avoid isolation.
According to VA, the PTSD Coach does not replace medical treatment but contains dependable, scientifically-proven, resources and can be a source of education for friends and family.
PTSD Coach for telephones operating on the Android system is expected later this year, as is a separate application designed specifically for family of PTSD sufferers.