Mental Health and Technology

More people are turning online for support and information and technology invariably has its pros and cons to mental health awareness and treatment.

How Technology Helps Your Mental Health

Technology has made it easier to access pertinent information and obtain resources, including mental health education, awareness and even treatment.

Using Mobile Applications and Outreach Support

Today, there’s an application available for everything from managing your finances to editing your selfies to ordering your favorite restaurant takeout. And yes, with that said, there’s also an application to manage your mental illness.

You can receive professional support from licensed therapists via Talkspace or manage your trauma symptoms with PTSD Coach. Mobile may even change the way we integrate mental health treatment and recovery into our overall daily living.

This relationship between technology and mental health helps to provide those with limited or no access to standards mode of therapeutic treatment due to location or financial hardships. Mental health guidance may just be a few fingerprint swipes away. This is even true for major crises, like suicide intervention. Those struggling with life-or-death decisions no longer have to speak on the telephone; there are options to text or chat in real-time with trained professionals for crisis intervention and treatment referrals.

Applying Virtual Reality to Treatments

Virtual reality (VR) technology continues to advance in helping users simulate real-world environments. Applied to mental health treatment and recovery planning, this type of technology development has begun to change traditional approaches.

In fact, VR can be used as treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in veterans. The results have been promising. Engaging veterans in this mode of active therapy provides an unconventional mode for decreasing the anxiety in response to triggering sounds and images. The University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies has implemented its Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan exposure therapy approach since 2005. These technologies allow clients to undergo safe, evidence-based exposure therapy via virtual scenarios guided by trained therapists.

Harming Self-Regulation - Negative Effects of Technology on Mental Health

Unfortunately, there are negatives that come with increased technology use, and it can be revealed as a form of self-regulation problems and mental illness development.

Adolescents who spend more time on their electronic devices experience more conduct problems, such as difficulty paying attention and increased fighting and lying. And, that’s not to mention the raising rates of internet addiction. Nielsen found that Americans spend nearly half a day engaging with electronic media. These numbers continue to rise with the rampant usage of smartphones.

After all, we turn to our phones for everything - it’s often the first thing we reach for in the morning and the last thing we touch at night.

Integrating Technology into Your Mental Health Treatment

The National Institute of Mental Health recognizes the growing relationship between technology and mental health. As technology continues to evolve, this trend will continue to emerge. It’s important for both mental health clinicians and consumers to understand the benefits and risks associated with electronic media.

More consumers are turning to online applications and augmented, virtual reality therapies for treatment. With that said, research should continue exploring both the short-term and long-term risks associated with increased technology dependence.

*Please note that the authors and editors of this article are not medical professionals. You should consult with your doctor if you have a mental or medical health concern.

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Last updated: April 2020