The researchers are recruiting 50 participants for the study; they must be age 18 or older, English-speaking and experiencing symptoms of PTSD, a type of anxiety disorder resulting from experiencing extreme psychological trauma. Participants must not be currently seeking care for the disorder.
PTSD affects approximately 7.8 percent of people in the United States, as well as almost one-third of military veterans. Patients with the disorder generally experience symptoms such as flashbacks or nightmares, sleep disruption, sadness, anger and avoidance of stimuli that remind them of the trauma.
Last year, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD developed a mobile-device app to provide immediate help for patients’ symptoms. The app contains four sections: “learn,” which provides basic information about PTSD; “find support,” which helps users find professional care; “self-assessment,” which allows users to fill out a checklist that measures 17 PTSD symptoms; and “manage symptoms,” which provides tools to address acute symptoms such as insomnia and anger.
The app was designed to augment professional help or to provide relief for those patients who either can’t afford or choose not to seek professional care.
The study, which is the first to test the effectiveness of the app, will involve both Bay Area subjects and volunteers living throughout the United States. Local participants will be asked to come to Stanford for an in-person psychiatric interview and will be provided with devices that download apps if they don’t have one. Non-local participants, who must own a smart phone or other device that can download apps, will participate online. Both sets of volunteers will use the app for one month and then fill out two online surveys at one- and two-month intervals.
The work is being led by C. Barr Taylor, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Laboratory for the Study of Behavioral Medicine, whose research projects include the evaluation and development of electronic and computer-assisted treatments for various mental disorders.
The research is funded by the VA through its Clinic-in-Hand program. People interested in participating in the study should contact research coordinator Rachael Lazar at (650) 485-3465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.