This app is trying to help ease depression

A new app is encouraging users to reduce symptoms of depression, which affects 300 million people worldwide, by integrating technology and behaviour therapy. It represents a new chapter in the understanding and treatment of depression.

Based on clinical psychology and nutrition research, the Flow app features information to its help users understand, treat and prevent depression, currently it is free to download on iOS and Android.

The app features interactive content, including daily chat conversations with a virtual therapist about the impact of nutrition on depression, and psychological strategies to help users switch off their autopilot craving mechanism and avoid foods known to trigger symptoms of depression. The app was developed by Flow Neuroscience, the medical device company behind the first medically approved home brain stimulation treatment for depression in the EU and UK.

In-app conversation with virtual therapist

The Flow app is designed to be used in conjunction with the Flow Neuroscience home brain stimulation headset. Randomised controlled trials published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Journal of Psychiatry showed that the type of brain stimulation used in the Flow headset had a similar impact to antidepressants, but with fewer and less-severe side effects.

Classified as a medical device, Flow (pictured below) motivates individuals to manage their depression with a digital alternative. The gadget was developed by clinical psychologist Daniel Mansson and neuroscientist Erik Rehn, and the company consists of prominent researchers in the field of psychiatry, clinical psychology, brain stimulation, neuroscience and machine learning. The business was founded in 2016 and is based in Sweden.

Along with psychological motivation the Flow app also encourages its users to change their eating habits to a diet high in fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds - and low in sugar and saturated fat.

Clinical studies have shown a direct link between eating certain foods, such as whole grains, fish and vegetables, and depression.

In one randomised controlled trial, 32.3% of moderately to severely depressed patients who received nutritional advice fully recovered from depression after 12 weeks just by changing their eating habits to a more Mediterranean diet. A separate study, which explored the impact of high sugar and high fat foods showed that a higher consumption of an of this kind of diet was associated with more depressive symptoms.

Daniel Mansson, clinical psychologist and co-founder of Flow, says: “Clinical studies have demonstrated that by changing your eating habits it is possible to reduce symptoms of depression. Eating lots of fruit and vegetables could present a natural, inexpensive and non-pharmaceutical means to support a healthy and happy brain. Our mission is to empower everyone to reduce depression based on well-grounded science.”

The Flow app can be downloaded here.

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