Keeping track of symptoms, such as mood, energy, and irritability, that can change from day-to-day or moment-to-moment within bipolar disorder can be a challenge for the person with the illness and for their care providers. These symptoms are traditionally assessed in a treatment setting by the patient completing a self-report questionnaire or their care provider asking specific questions about how they have been feeling over the last several weeks. New tools are being developed to help patients and their providers better capture and log symptoms, but also to investigate if there are behaviors that a person engages in on a daily basis can be related to the illness. Mobile technology such as smartphones have shown to be good real-world tools that can be used to capture rapid fluctuations in functioning or other behaviors in psychiatric illness.
In a recent study, led by Kelly Ryan, Ph.D., Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Michigan, a custom-built smartphone app was developed that measured daily fluctuations in mood in bipolar disorder. Individuals with bipolar disorder who were also enrolled with the Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder answered questions about their mood twice a day for 28 days. Their phone usage behaviors such as how many phone calls they made or received and text messages sent and received were captured to see if they could be related to psychomotor activity or mood symptoms reported by the participants.
Overall, participants reported very positive experiences using the smartphone app and adhered to the daily protocol at a very high rate. Results showed that increasing mania-like symptoms over time in the study were associated with decreasing phone communication habits using text messages and phone calls. The more mania-like the symptoms, the less the participants engaged in communication activities on their phone, despite receiving more text messages. These results suggest that using smartphones shows promise as a way to collect important clinical information and can have an impact on mental health treatment and self-management of symptoms. Using communicative phone behaviors are potential tools to automatically track mood much like fitness bands, smartwatches, and other such accessories.
A Smartphone App to Monitor Mood Symptoms in Bipolar Disorder: Development and Usability Study
Ryan KA, Babu P, Easter R, Saunders E, Lee AJ, Klasnja P, Verchinina L, Micol V, Doil B, McInnis MG, Kilbourne AM. A Smartphone App to Monitor Mood Symptoms in Bipolar Disorder: Development and Usability Study. JMIR Ment Health 2020;7(9):e19476