How New Technologies Are Helping in the Treatment of Psychosis
We’re currently witnessing extraordinary developments in the field of technology. After all, who of us doesn’t have a smartphone or computer at our fingertips? These technologies are also being exploited in the psychological field.
To better understand the contents of this article, we’re going to start with the definition of psychosis. Psychotic experiences have generated a great deal of interest throughout the history of humanity. Psychosis is a heterogeneous compendium of clinical entities with different manifestations and evolutions.
“Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a great idea become an innovation.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), psychoses are a group of disorders that share a series of nuclear characteristics known as psychotic experiences. They involve:
- Persistent delusions of any kind. For instance, jealousy, grandeur, and nihilism, among others.
- Distortions in the experience of the self. For example, experiences of passivity, thought insertion, or thought withdrawal.
- Persistent hallucinations in any modality (visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic).
- Disorganized thoughts. Language seems disjointed, like a word salad. Or, words are created with their own meaning. There are also neologisms and other manifestations of thought.
- Negative symptoms occur. These are the lessening or reducing of normal behaviors. For example, anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure may appear, along with the flattening of emotional experiences.
- Bizarre behaviors. This includes eccentric, purposeless, or inappropriate behaviors.
- Altered psychomotor behaviors such as restlessness, catatonic agitation, or abnormal postures may occur.
It’s understandable that, when psychosis is mentioned, the first disease that comes to mind is schizophrenia. That’s because this condition is the most widely mentioned in the media such as movies, art, and literature. So, does psychosis lie beyond schizophrenia? The answer is a resounding yes.
- Schizophreniform disorder. This is short-lived schizophrenia. The psychotic features last for at least a month but less than six. It occurs five times less often than schizophrenia.
- Schizoaffective disorder. In this condition, the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia are met along with a depressive, manic, or mixed episode. The disorder must last at least four weeks. It affects the female sex more and usually has a better prognosis than the other kinds.
- Delusional disorder. In this condition, the sufferer experiences delusions for at least three months. However, they usually last much longer and occur in the absence of depression or mania. Hallucinations are normally absent in this disorder. If they do appear, they’re usually directly related to the delusion.
- Acute and transient psychotic disorder occurs when psychotic symptoms occur within a short period of time, more specifically within two weeks. With no alarm signals of what’s to come, patients experience hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. It’s more common in women.
A patient may have a persecution delusion and believe that UFOs want to kidnap them to experiment on them. One hallucination specifically associated with this delusion would be hearing strange noises at home.
Now that we’ve briefly reviewed the different psychoses and their characteristics, we’re going to explain how new technologies are helping in the treatment of psychosis.
New technologies in the treatment of psychosis
How many times a day do you use your cell phone? How many WhatsApps have you sent in the last year? We can’t ignore the fact that today, technology is playing an increasingly important role in our lives. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that, in the psychological field, it’s helping sufferers of psychotic disorders. For example:
- Technology allows a greater number of patients to be reached, making treatment more accessible.
- It helps to prevent relapses thanks to the fact that contact is faster and more direct.
- It helps provide information that facilitates patients’ adherence to treatments.
- All of the above promote well-being, reduce social isolation, and help patients recover.
Telepsychology is the adaptation of traditional therapy in a physical consultation, to videoconferencing or over the telephone. Its benefits include savings in travel costs and a lack of stigma (which is still associated with mental health consultations today).
This therapeutic modality offers immediate help when it’s vitally important for the patient to receive it. Research highlights that this type of therapy, when performed properly, is a valid and reliable option.
Interventions based on SMS text messages
The speed of the development of technology means that digital interventions may also become obsolete. This is the case of SMS-based interventions. However, they’re still used because they allow the patient to access small reminders that help them. For example, to take their medication.
ITAREPS (Information Technology Aided Relapse Prevention Programme in Schizophrenia) is an example of this type of intervention. The patient completes a small questionnaire, and the program notifies the psychiatrist to establish contact if the sufferer is at risk.
Apps for cell phones and tablets
There’s a wide variety of apps available for intervening in psychosis. However, there’s not a great deal of empirical evidence to support this therapeutic modality in clinical practice. That’s because technology is being developed faster than the research on its effectiveness.
That said, we do know that the adherence rate to apps is extremely high. Indeed, patients use them extensively, and no adverse events have been reported to date as a consequence of their use. Among the most outstanding apps are:
- ClinTouch. This was the first app to be developed for psychosis. Its main function is that patients can record in situ the symptoms they’re experiencing.
- Focus. An app designed to offer self-guided interventions with the aim of improving medication intake, promoting social functioning, and monitoring mood problems, hallucinations, or sleep-related problems.
- Well-Wave. An app focused on improving physical health. Its main objective is to promote increased physical activity in patients with a psychotic disorder.
“Given the limitations of treatment for people with psychosis, the use of information and communication technologies as adjuvants to traditional treatment is especially suggestive in the case of young people with psychosis.”
In recent years, the implementation of new technologies for the treatment of psychosis as a complement to usual treatment has been carried out in different formats and with different content to help sufferers of psychosis. Although efficacy studies show satisfactory results, at this stage, they’re only in the preliminary stages. This underlines the importance of further research to be conducted.It might interest you...