The Potential Downsides of Mental Health Apps

Mobile apps provide users with the opportunity to obtain desired information 24/7. The prevalence of using electronic technology among the general population gave rise to thousands of apps encompassing hundreds of topics that include health and mental health. There are approximately 165,000 apps concerning health and mental health that are easily obtained free of charge or for a nominal fee. The apps claim to help people living with anything from addiction, anxiety or depression to schizophrenia. However, in terms of mental health issues, the apps may have some shortcomings to consider.


No Regulation

Medical specialists may combine efforts with engineers to design and create apps for mental health. However, presently there are no regulating agencies to ensure the information offered concerning mood, medications or other treatments is necessarily sound. Few apps have undergone medical scrutiny.


Of all the available mental health apps, 14 designed for bipolar or major depressive disorder have been officially reviewed by mental health professionals. Seven apps for psychosis were reviewed. The evaluations revealed that the programs offered little in terms of effectiveness and were not necessarily deemed as being safe.


Thus, there is no way for users to know whether the recommendations or therapies provided are safe or effective. Dissatisfaction with a mental health app might also dissuade someone from seeking one-on-one professional help.


Privacy Issues

Mental health apps may require users to submit personal information concerning symptoms, habits, medications or other data. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requires that health information remains private and inaccessible to anyone except the patient and their health care provider. Unless the app provides some form of security measure, personal information might be obtained, used and abused by other people. Before installing an app, potential users must ensure that the program is biometrically authenticated, password protected or both. All data should also be encrypted in the event that the mobile device becomes lost or stolen.


Lack of Customization

Two people diagnosed with depression may differ greatly in terms of the severity of their symptoms and treatment needs. Mental health apps must also be flexible enough to accommodate patients who span the spectrum of specific mental health issues. Unfortunately, many apps do not fulfill the need to be diverse in terms of information. Thus, once again, they are rendered ineffective.

Herrick Lipton is the CEO of New Horizon Counseling Center in New York and is also an advocate for mental health. For more information about Herrick or to get in touch with New Horizon Counseling Center for resources, please visit or call 718-845-2620.