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6 Innovative Technologies That Aid Mental Health Treatments

Society has come a long way regarding mental health awareness and treatment. With a better understanding of the human brain and how certain chemicals affect it, research has been done into areas that might possibly ease or even cure some illnesses.

With the spread of the deadly coronavirus recently, the world has suffered a terrible era of death and instability. This pandemic has unfortunately led to an increase in people with mental illness due to the stress that they’re experiencing. The governments of the world quickly realized this factor and began to pour money into research for new treatments, some of which are already having success.

Technology’s Role In Mental Health Treatments

One of the most significant issues with mental illness is the inability of the patient to work effectively. With nervousness, agitation, and other adverse effects, a patient suffering from mild to severe cases will have a much harder time working a traditional job.

Technology has been used to aid those with psychological disorders in recent years. Some have even been able to leave behind their mental illness due to the benefits of these technologies. Treatment centers worldwide have begun to implement various technologies that have been proven effective. For more information about mental health treatment, click here.

Several companies have begun researching and developing more tech that helps those dealing with psychological disorders. This list contains some of the more interesting advancements:

1. Visual Simulation Technology

The first innovative technology used for mental health treatments is Visual Simulation Technology (VST) or Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET).

For patients who have agoraphobia, panic disorder, social anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), VST or VRET is an amazing tool. It can track heart rate variability and other biometrics alongside relevant visual stimuli.

Most of these systems have been tested under controlled conditions due to their high cost and advanced technology. This technology is also one of the most widely used tools for mental health today, especially in the treatment of PTSD. This therapy fully immerses patients in a computer-generated world that mirrors the traumatic experience in real life.

How Does It Work?

In this digital world, patients are tasked with going through their trauma again and working through their emotional response to it all. For example, a soldier injured by an explosion in a war zone may be asked to use their imagination to relive that experience and recall what happened.

The soldier’s therapist will work with them during the session to keep track of their anxiety levels as they relive this experience over and over again within the virtual reality (VR) world. Eventually, after a full round of exposure therapy sessions, patients should remember their trauma without being as strongly affected emotionally.

Currently, there are several different ways that therapists can use VR exposure therapy to help their patients recover. Those who have undergone this treatment have reported better results than traditional exposure therapy because it allows them to face their trauma without exposing themselves physically to the potential triggers associated with the memory.

Some critics argue that this form of therapy isn’t consistent enough because the VR world can’t reproduce every patient’s triggers. However, therapists counter that point by saying that it may be easier to start with a computer-generated world and slowly expose patients to these triggers in the real world once they have mastered their responses in virtual reality.

Benefits Of Visual Simulation Technology

There are numerous benefits to using virtual reality systems for patients with certain psychological disorders. Some of these benefits include:

  • It allows complete control of the patient’s surroundings.
  • It provides biofeedback that allows self-regulation of emotions and behavior.
  • Patients can try new experiences without having to go through them first-hand.
  • It enables the patient to work through issues in a safe environment without any repercussions.
  • It helps prevent social anxiety disorder and other phobias from occurring by slowly exposing the patient to feared stimuli.
  • It decreases overall stress levels, which can have positive effects on many different parts of the brain, including areas that are heavily involved in many psychological disorders.

2. Brain Wave Technology

Brain waves are electrical impulses that fire throughout the brain at different frequencies, depending on what a person is experiencing or doing. While there are five main types, each one has numerous subtypes that occur within them. For instance, alpha waves are the most popular kind due to their connection with relaxation.

Alpha Waves And Relaxation

There are many different types of brain wave technology. Most only focus on one type of brain activity, but some systems can monitor various aspects at once. One such device is a headset designed to use alpha waves to induce relaxation and meditation with ease. This product works by tracking the wearer’s brain activity through sensors on the headband.

While this technology is still under research, studies have shown it works as intended. It can help those with various psychological disorders relax and be calm without too much effort, which many people with these problems wish they could do.

For example, if a person struggling with chronic anxiety is always on the lookout for danger and is constantly stressed out, they may end up having more issues than they already do. This device allows them to de-stress without taking medication or undergoing extensive therapy sessions.

Other Brain Waves To Monitor

Brain wave technology can also monitor other brain waves, but some are still being researched. For example, the thalamic mid-line rhythms can help treat depression with mood-stabilizing medications. Studies have shown that the more often these are detected in a patient, the higher their chances of responding well to medication, making this technology extremely useful for doctors and psychiatrists.

Other brain waves that can be monitored include gamma, high beta, and delta frequencies. Each has unique properties and can treat various psychological disorders such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, addiction issues, and even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The Benefits Of Brain Wave Technology

Brain wave technology offers many benefits to those who need psychological treatment. Some of these include:

  • It allows the patient to control their mental state with ease, reducing the chance of having further issues. For instance, if an addicted person is trying to quit and needs something to keep them from giving in, this technology can do just that.
  • It allows for the treatment of many psychological disorders without medications or extensive therapy sessions. It’s an easy way to relax, which reduces stress levels and helps slow down problems with the brain.

3. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

TMS is a non-invasive procedure that’s used to treat patients with depression or anxiety. This procedure can be done without anesthesia, making it an attractive alternative for those who don’t want to deal with the pain associated with other therapies. Usually, this treatment can last anywhere from 20-30 minutes and has very few side effects, which is why it’s an excellent option for those who need help managing these problems.

How It Works

TMS is based on the idea that different brain parts are responsible for other aspects, such as happiness and sadness, anger, and excitement. This device works by passing magnetic pulses through the skull and into specific brain parts to activate or inhibit them.

In the case of depression, the prefrontal cortex is targeted due to its significantly lower activity in individuals with this problem. TMS can stimulate this brain area to boost its activity and improve moods. It’ll make a patient feel better once they wake up from treatment.

How It’s Different From Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

While TMS and ECT are similar in that they treat psychological disorders by stimulating parts of the brain, there are still some differences. For example, ECT is more intense, with patients requiring anesthesia to prevent discomfort. On top of this, ECT is also more invasive since the brain is directly stimulated, whereas TMS only targets specific brain areas instead.

People looking for a less intense way to deal with issues like depression or anxiety might want to opt for TMS over ECT.

The Benefits Of TMS Therapy

This treatment offers several benefits for those suffering from psychological issues like depression or anxiety. Some of them include:

  • It’s non-invasive.
  • The side effects are minimal, if any.
  • It’s painless.
  • It’s fast-acting.
  • It provides long-term relief.

4. Computational Mood Alteration

Depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the world. It not only affects those that have it, but often their family members as well. In recent years, computational mood alteration has been studied as a possible treatment.

With the rise of technology in mental health research, technological innovations now focus on using computers to detect signs of depression, stress, and other psychological disorders. Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, those with these devices could be taught to cope with their symptoms and reduce their effects on their daily lives.

An interesting and simple example of how this could be used is by integrating these systems with smartphones. Apps designed to monitor mood and adjust settings on the phone based on that data could lead to more calmness for those dealing with stress or anxiety. It would also enable users to receive digital therapy from their phones whenever they needed it without having to visit a clinical setting.

It has not been determined whether this technology will be allowed to become mainstream or if it will remain limited to research and clinical settings. However, the future looks bright for those who have a mental illness, and these devices may be able to offer them some relief.

5. Neurofeedback

It’s a popular treatment for children with autism, but it has also been used to treat people dealing with anxiety or certain types of depression. While users are hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG) machine, they can see their brainwaves and the effects of their thoughts. This feedback aims to teach patients to control their impulses and emotions.

In addition, the researchers have focused on exploring how neurofeedback can be used to improve the attention spans of those who have ADHD. With this technology, the brainwaves of children with ADHD are compared before and after they receive neurofeedback treatments.

Patients who complete the neurofeedback sessions show less hyperactivity and impulsivity, implying the promise of this future treatment.

Benefits of Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback may offer additional benefits, including the ability to help patients learn how to stop panic attacks. By slowing down brainwaves associated with stress and anxiety, neurofeedback can be used to reduce symptoms of these disorders.

It’s unknown whether neurofeedback will become an accepted treatment for mental health disorders. Still, those looking for different ways to cope with their psychological issues may want to look into this technique. Finally, neurofeedback uses technology that teaches patients how to take back control of their symptoms.

6. Eye Tracking

This technology allows a patient’s eye movements, pupil dilation, and general eye behavior to be tracked in real-time. The patient’s emotional state can then be analyzed for trends and changes by recording this data.

Eye-tracking allows therapists to monitor a patient without requiring any verbal communication, which is often helpful for patients who suffer from social anxiety or nervousness around others. It has an advantage over other similar technologies because it doesn’t require the patient to wear any sensors or trackers. Simply having patients sit in front of a computer and look at an image or video will provide the necessary data.

Once this information is analyzed, it can help the patient better understand their emotional response to different stimuli. This insight into how they feel opens up the door to treatment options that weren’t available before, because doctors didn’t know what was causing their patients’ issues.

Drawbacks Of Eye-Tracking Technology

However, while this technology is excellent at providing therapists with more data on their patients, eye tracking is far from perfect. One of the biggest criticisms of eye-tracking technology is that many factors contribute to pupil dilation and what it might indicate. Many of our responses are involuntary, making it difficult for therapists to determine precisely what thought or emotion a patient may be having at any given moment.

While eye tracking may not be the best way to gauge emotional response, it opens up new mental health treatment opportunities.

Conclusion

At this point, many technologies can be used to improve mental health treatment. Some of these options help patients use their future behaviors as motivation for change, while others provide doctors with an understanding of what might be causing their patient’s issues.

While most of the above methods have yet to be widely accepted or used for mental health treatment, it won’t be long before these options become commonplace. Rather than relying on the same old treatments, many patients embrace these new technologies and see where they can take them.

Doctors can then start treating their patients’ issues more quickly by offering additional insight into what might be causing their patients’ problems. However, no matter what treatment option a patient chooses, it’s nice to know that there are many medical options for those who wish to improve their mental health.

 

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Medical Device News Magazine is a division of PTM Healthcare Marketing, Inc. Pauline T. Mayer is the managing editor.
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