Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy

Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy

SmartDepression - tracking depression with digital devices

Major depression (MDD) is a complex and severe mental disorder which is difficult to diagnose especially at its onset. The difficulty to diagnose MDD at an early stage may be due to the rather subtle transition from a healthy into a depressive state. Moreover, it is well known that patients suffering from MDD are impaired in the correct evaluation of their symptoms. For instance, cognitions and memory are often biased due to depressive mood and patients experience a lack of interest and energy. Up to now it was quite strenuous to chart the course of MDD in detail using e.g. life charts.

Nowadays smartphone apps facilitate tracking the mental state such as mood or thoughts of a person. However, most available apps are based on the patient’s evaluation of his/her mental state rather than using objective parameters, i.e. the patient’s perspective on his/her mental state. Objective measures such as heart rate variability or acceleration of motion are seldomly considered though changes in these can indicate a depressive episode.

The aim of this project is to chart the course of MDD using a variety of subjective as well as objective parameters. Thereby data of the multiple parameters are integrated into a single depression score. Parameters are measured continuously using smartphones and wearables (ecological momentary assessment) yielding a “true-to- scale” representation of the course of disease. A more sophisticated monitoring aims to improve the diagnosis, therapy and prevention of depressive disorders.