Mania, which can include irritability, hyperactivity, over-spending, and promiscuity, is often devastating to people who suffer from bipolar disorder. Unless the bipolar sufferer knows themselves and their disease very well, oncoming manic episodes can’t be detected. And occasionally, patients even ignore or deny their symptoms. Sane Australia, a mental health organization, is testing an app that will detect the onset of manic episodes.
The app works by monitoring the bipolar person’s interactions with their digital devices. Over time, this data can be compared with touchstones of stability in the person’s life. If instable patterns–such as not sleeping for days on end–arise, then the bipolar sufferer and a trusted confidant or medical professional are notified by the app so they can take action to prevent the episode from getting worse. The data can also be shown to psychiatrists working with the bipolar person to demonstrate patterns of behavior and create treatment plans in response.
Sane Australia is hosting a three-month non-clinical trial in July with 400 people–200 with bipolar and 200 people close to them–to determine if the app actually works. Initially, the app, funded by Gandel Philanthropy, will only be available on Android smartphones, but the company plans to release it on tablets, laptops, and other devices.
Eventually, the company plans to address the onset of depression as well as the onset of manic episodes. They hope to analyze data gathered by a large user base, which will give them bellweathers of instability across a population of bipolar sufferers.
This app, if it works, is a promising addition to a bipolar patient’s arsenal to prevent their disorder from consuming their life. According to the app’s website, “Destructive mania is often detected too late to take preventative action.” If manic episodes can be found early, then medical professionals and careers can respond quickly, and head off the worst of the symptoms.
The app is scheduled for release in the Australian market sometime in 2018.