Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can actually be beneficial in some situations. However, excessive anxiety in some people may negatively affect their day-to-day living. There is a wide variety of anxiety disorders, affecting 18.1% of U.S. adult population, according to NIH.
Some of these disorders require treatment, depending on their severity. Less severe cases could be self-managed with the help of various relaxation techniques for anxiety. Smart devices made things easier, offering various apps to serve this purpose.
One of these apps is Self-help Anxiety Management (SAM) that has been developed by a team of psychologists, computer scientists, and students from University of the West England.
This app offers a range of techniques for people who want to learn how to manage their anxiety, with the help of established self-help methods, combined with high standards of usability to provide an engaging, flexible, and practical resource.
This is exactly the best part of this anxiety app. Content sections with detailed techniques to manage anxiety are given in a simple and straightforward way. No huge blocks of text, or long essays on how to beat anxiety. Users can go straight to therapeutic activities, which are often presented in an interactive way.
Interface and design of SAM app are impressive. Everything looks and flows smoothly. The interface is fast and responsive, made of pleasant pastel colors. The content is presented in various media formats with a lot of pleasant imagery that follows the textual information, which is not heavy, but still sufficient.
However, the textual info provided within the app lacks the links to sources of specific techniques. But, this isn't a big drawback, because the content is backed by a psychology department at UWE Bristol, and based on their own clinical experiences, which gives this app a legitimacy over other anxiety apps.
The SAM app though provides further anxiety links that give users option to expand their knowledge on common mental health concerns or to find a therapist.
The app also allows users to save their favorite anxiety techniques for quicker access by building their own Anxiety Toolkit of SAM resources they can use for regular practice in managing anxiety situations. However, the app is lacking other ways of personalization. Here's one example. In Relaxation Mental, there's an option called 'It's only a thought' where you can type out the anxiety-inducing thoughts, that float away once you tap on the button. The app doesn't save these thoughts for later use. Whether this is done intentional (once they float away, negative thoughts shouldn't come back) or not, I'm not sure, but getting rid of negative thoughts is not as simple as 'one tap makes them float away.'
A lot of anxiety sufferers have almost recursive negative thought loops that require time and patience to be 'erased', so saving these thoughts in the app, until users are strong enough to make them float away once for good should be an option.
Another useful feature of SAM app is Tracking anxiety, which is presented in a simple fashion. Four questions help users to easily rank symptoms for certain day and chart them out day by day. However, although simple, Tracking is too simple to be considered clinically useful information. It doesn't include any reminder, which could be very useful. Also, there's no reference to medications, or information how they correlate with symptoms. Adding certain tags or labels to particular days would be also a useful addition to tracking because they could help with detecting triggers or specific events that induce anxiety or make it worse.
The app doesn't explain how it came up with questions and measures they use, i.e. if they're psychometrically valid measures of distress and anxiety, and are they sufficient. The app doesn't provide any reference links or info on this matter.
The app also provides a social component through "social support", which is quite basic. You're allowed to log in, write posts, or to view and reply to other SAM users posts. Users can use this option anonymously, as registering with personal information is entirely optional.
However, the social support isn't impressing as the rest of the app. Particularly its interface, which would be much better if it uses the functionality of online forums. For example, there are no threaded discussions, which is important to keep the proper discussion flow.
This option is not any sort of professional support. For that part, you have to consult your local health practitioner who might give you more info and advice on how to use the SAM app, and whether or not it could help you. Meanwhile, you may use SAM app as a useful support tool.
Benefit: This app is intended for patients suffering from anxiety as a source of anxiety reduction techniques. It's lacking some advanced options, such as tracking and professional support, to be considered and used as an evidence-based app by medical professionals in clinics.