Apps can cure phobias through ‘systematic desensitisation’

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Written By Mostafa Moradi

Developers have created potential solutions for sufferers of phobias and panic attacks. Using apps downloadable for smartphones and tablets, users can find themselves potentially completely cured from any irrational fears, anxiety and panic attacks.

One such app is ‘Phobia Free’ which aims to address one of the most common phobias in the world: the fear of spiders. Arachnophobia is commonplace for millions of people the world over, even those that are able to cope with smaller spiders often have a point of panic when it comes to the size or look of the insect.

By using systematic desensitisation, the app initially introduces the user to a small and friendly looking cartoon spider. Essentially a game with a purpose, the app tasks the user with helping the spider through a series of challenges, gradually making the insect more realistic and larger.

Therapy v Technology

There is a strong belief from some psychologists that apps are never likely to be able to provide a cure for any kind of phobia as they lack the human element necessary to provide prescribed and tailored therapy. However with the increasingly personal relationships that people have with their smart devices, the alternative view is that for many, there is no better option than to sit privately and quietly with their phone and work through some exercises.

There are also apps in development for anxiety and panic attacks which show breathing exercises and calming puzzles to help focus the mind. Because of the associated embarrassment and apparent shame that many sufferers of anxiety associate with the condition, a private aid to the condition is potentially preferable for many. By not exposing the user’s anxiety, sufferers are likely to be more enthusiastic about using a specific app to help.

There are also apps in development for those with relationship fears and agoraphobia. An app called Sam deals specifically with panic attacks and is currently scheduled to undergo medical trials to assess if it can assist professionally with treatment.