Research conducted by Trent Ernest Hammond from Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) has shed light on the existing problems with social anxiety mobile apps and the potential benefits of developing a new solution.
Problematic social anxiety affects approximately 7-11% of Australians, yet there are several gaps, particularly in mobile apps.
Trent pointed out two major issues with the current apps in the Australian Apple and Google Play stores.
Firstly, there is a lack of evidence to show that these apps were co-designed with individuals experiencing problematic social anxiety and health professionals.
Secondly, there is a clear opportunity to create a new psycho-educational app that engages users, provides easily accessible and up-to-date empirical information about social anxiety, and includes recommendations from health professionals.
A new app could offer information about various therapies, such as acceptance and commitment therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), and dialectical behaviour therapy.
It could also provide instructions for deep breathing exercises, diagnostic information, guidance on finding support, and interactive features like podcasts and games.
“Have you ever experienced problematic social anxiety or felt fearful in social situations? You probably wanted to understand why you were anxious and find ways to manage it,” said Trent.
“Many people experience social anxiety but struggle to find comprehensive and up-to-date information in one place, and currently, this information is scattered, making it time-consuming to find answers to questions.”
To address these challenges, Trent aims to develop a new mobile app that provides comprehensive answers to common questions, improves access to tools and information about social anxiety, and connects individuals with health professionals who can provide assistance.
The research has the potential to enhance the availability of informational resources related to social anxiety and empower individuals to make informed decisions about their healthcare.
The development of a new psycho-educational app for social anxiety is expected to improve access to information and promote patient autonomy.
I embarked on this research project due to the significant knowledge gaps and practical challenges in the field, as well as my personal experiences with individuals who have social anxiety disorder,” explained Trent.
“My research is highly pragmatic, and there is undoubtedly a need for an empirically informed, validated, and tested mobile app for social anxiety.”
Social anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety disorder in Australia, highlighting the pressing need to improve access to information about the disorder and connect individuals with appropriate healthcare professionals.
As the research progresses, Trent aims to develop a user-friendly and evidence-based app that fills the current gaps in social anxiety support, ultimately improving the lives of those affected by this common mental health condition.