A Transformative Investment in Treatment for OCD and Anxiety
What if there was a way to retrain the brain of a person suffering from Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) to be less terrified without seeing a therapist regularly? What if there was a way to retrain the brain of a depressed person who cannot see a therapist on a regular basis to be less sad? What if treatment for the tens of thousands of silent sufferers of mental illness could be made available through a home computer, laptop or mobile device?
These questions are being answered, thanks to a digital treatment model designed by researchers at Rogers Memorial Hospital and San Diego State University.
A Transformational Approach
Groundbreaking research has proven that the attention of individuals with a mental illness such as PTSD, OCD and anxiety, is heightened (the clinical term for this heightening is “bias”) toward anything in their environment that leads to an increase of their psychiatric symptoms. These biases cause anxiety sufferers to over-perceive danger associated with normal daily events, such as an OCD patient who fears getting AIDS from a doorknob or a depressive person who over-perceives negativity and is sure that a stranger who incidentally frowns at him must hate him.
In response to the concept of cognitive bias, researchers developed a desktop computer-based treatment tool utilizing a software program to divert the mind from harmful thought patterns that can fuel debilitating social and psychological disorders.
This computer-based program:
- Confronts the cognitive biases of PTSD, OCD and anxiety that have been wired into the brain.
- Decreases the patients’ focus on the biases, thus reducing their symptoms by actively participating in retraining/modification exercises.
Over the past two decades, peer-reviewed studies of this computer-based program showed remarkable results. During clinical trials, adult participants utilized the software on desktop computers, several times a week over a period of four to eight weeks. Each session lasted approximately 10-15 minutes. In these trials, 50% of patients with anxiety, OCD or PTSD showed reductions in symptoms to non-clinical levels simply by using the computer-based treatment regimen. Furthermore, independent researchers in the U.S. and Canada have used this tool, now called the Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM) program, in repeated studies yielding similar or even better results.
A Promising Future
The full value of this treatment approach is yet to be realized. By updating its technical platform from a desktop-based model to an operating system for web-based and mobile applications — and with subsequent studies to test the effectiveness of the tool in these advanced platforms (mobile phones, laptops, tablets) — the CBM program holds the potential to:
- Expand Access to and Availability of Care
The CBM mobile model allows for treatment outside of a hospital or clinic setting, thus expanding the reach of care to thousands of patients who currently lack access to treatment options.
- Decrease Costs of Care for Patients
The cost of mental healthcare and inability to pay are often cited as two of the reasons why people don’t seek treatment or stop services before treatment has ended. When used as a mobile app, costs may be reduced.
- Reduce the Barrier of Treatment Due to Stigma
Many of the elements associated with the stigma of seeking treatment for mental health challenges can be overcome with the use of the mobile CBM program, which can be administered conveniently and in private settings chosen by the patient.
- Enhance the Sustainability of Treatment Gains
Rogers serves thousands of people through residential and specialized outpatient programs. Many patients still rely on treatment upon re-entering the home, society, work and school. We envision a time when patients can leave a setting such as Rogers with the support of the CBM tool and have access to a treatment regimen that supports, sustains or further enhances progress made in traditional treatment.
- Increase Efficiencies of Quality Mental Healthcare
Rogers is committed to expanding avenues of treatment that lead to greater efficiencies and reduced costs of mental healthcare without sacrificing the quality of care. The CBM program is an instrument that can help us to achieve those standards.
- Harness the Power of Individualized Treatment
Scientific advances are putting us closer to the day when personalized medicine on the basis of genes and environmental factors can dictate treatment. As a software-based system, the CBM program is positioned to help provide individualized treatment.