People suffering with panic disorder have a relatively poor quality of life. They restrict activities that induce stress and anxiety because the symptoms associated with panic disorder are debilitating, embarrassing and they erode self confidence. People who suffer with panic disorders suffer a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. A panic event may be associated with difficulties in breathing, dizziness, increased heart rate, palpitations, nausea and fear.
There has been an increase in the number of disorders such as panic disorder. The causes may be varied but seem to include our 24 society, increased expectations, the pace of life generally and the digital age in which we live. Whilst the digital age may be partly to blame it may also provide some part of the solution to the problem in the form of online treatments.
Online therapy in the form of counseling and chat has been around for some time and appears, from what evidence is available, to be reasonably successful. Recently however a team of scientists and medical doctors in Taiwan have collaborated to produce a system that combines biofeedback with web technology that will allow patients and medical professionals to communicate over the web whilst engaging in therapy at home or even at work.
The term biofeedback simply refers to one or more measurements of bodily functions. We are all used to this in some form. Bodily temperature, pulse rate and blood pressure are probably the most common, but in a therapeutic context even the most minute changes of temperature, muscular tension or sweating can be used as a way of showing people how their body changes in response to stressful thoughts or actions. More importantly, biofeedback can reveal the amount of personal control we have over our responses and this provides a powerful method to control anxiety.
The latest technique uses a wireless-enabled finger ring that measures skin temperature. The patient uploads physiological data and the ‘emotion ring' continuously monitors and records fluctuations in skin temperature which provides instant feedback to the therapist as to how the person is responding emotionally. The patient can then be taught ways to reduce their anxiety through muscle relaxation and various mental exercises.
So far the application is still going through trials but the small pilot study suggests that the system is effective and that the number of panic episodes reduced as a result. Vincent Tseng and Bai-En Shie of the National Cheng Kung University along with with psychiatrist Fong-Lin Jang of the Chi-Mei Medical Center, in Tainan, Taiwan, want to progress beyond personal computers so that users can connect via mobile devices. They believe the system could have a "pivotal impact" on the healthcare industry. A large multi-center trial is currently underway in Taiwan.
Inderscience Publishers (2010, January 20). Treating panic disorder on the web. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 10, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/01/100119103726.htm