Mobile-phone apps aid in PTSD, brain injuries

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Image of "T2 Mood Tracker" application screen.

The proliferation of new-age technology has made our lives easier in a wide variety of ways, some of which we never envisioned until "there was an app for that."

Now mobile-phone "apps," or applications, have gone far beyond mere conveniences to genuinely helping heal the wounds of war.

Once-skeptical veterans are becoming convinced that apps with names like "T2 MoodTracker" and "PTSD Coach" can help them in dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries and other mental health-related issues.

The apps offer easy access to information that can have a direct impact on helping ease flashbacks, panic attacks and other symptoms of PTSD.

The apps also can be used by health-care professionals to provide definitions, causes and severity ratings for concussions resulting from roadside bombings and other explosions.

The Defense Department was involved in developing many of the apps, such as MoodTracker, which allows users to rate feelings such as loneliness and happiness and keeps a record of their moods over time. Others provide step-by-step instructions to help sufferers of PTSD relax their muscles and maintain steady breathing, as well as assist users in creating phone lists of people to call when they need help or support, such as contacting the National Suicide Prevention Hotline if an emergency arises.

Many of the apps are a result of the Defense Department in 2008 establishing the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, an effort to adapt the latest innovations in technology to treat mental health problems. It appears to be yielding impressive results.

Traumatic brain injuries, PTSD and other so-called "invisible wounds" are among the most common injuries sustained by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the past four years, the number of veterans receiving mental health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs has increased by one-third, to 1.2 million, according to VA officials. These apps are a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to help them cope with the challenges they face.


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Published: August 15, 2011
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