OCT 24, 2018 9:45 PM PDT

App Alleviates Symptoms of OCD

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a 'brain training' app that may help people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to better ease their symptoms. Such symptoms include excessive handwashing and contamination fears.

Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the study examined how the app in just one week of training, lead to significant improvements. This repetitive and compulsive behavior of OCD is associated with 'cognitive rigidity' or the inability to adapt to new situations or new rules. Stopping the compulsive habits, like handwashing, requires a great deal of cognitive flexibility so that the OCD individual may switch to new activities instead.

Many current treatments, like the drug Prozac, are not always effective, and so researchers are hopeful that their app can be therapeutic for people with contamination fears and excessive washing. The intervention involves videos of the OCD patient washing their hands or touching fake contaminated surfaces.

Image via University of Cambridge

"This technology will allow people to gain help at any time within the environment where they live or work, rather than having to wait for appointments. The use of smartphone videos allows the treatment to be personalized to the individual,” says Professor Barbara Sahakian from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge. "These results while very exciting and encouraging, require further research, examining the use of these smartphone interventions in people with a diagnosis of OCD."

Although the smartphone app isn’t available for public use—researchers are hopeful that further studies can provide more evidence-based results that the app is effective at helping patients with OCD.

"Participants told us that the smartphone washing app allowed them to easily engage in their daily activities. For example, one participant said 'if I am commuting on the bus and touch something contaminated and can't wash my hands for the next two hours, the app would be a sufficient substitute',” explains Baland Jalal, author of the study.

Source: University of Cambridge

About the Author
  • Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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