Do Online Mood Trackers Accurately Assess Depression and Anxiety?

Online mood trackers have risen in popularity since the introduction of computer aided therapy (CAT). Although clinicians agree that daily tracking of moods can be beneficial for diagnostic purposes and for recognizing shifts between sessions, no one has looked to see whether these tools are effective and how users themselves rate them. More importantly, many mood trackers require that users enter their moods throughout the day, causing possible reflection on low mood states which could lead to rumination.

Additionally, because few of the thousands of online mood tracking tools are administered and facilitated by licensed therapists, the feedback and guidance users receive may be counterproductive to overcoming negative moods. In fact, it could even harm some users. To take a closer look at how Moodscope, a popular online mood tracker is received and reviewed by users, G. Drake of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London recently conducted a three-month experiment involving users of Moodscope.

Drake assessed the validity of Moodscope by using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Assessment (GAD-7) and the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) for depression as comparisons. The users’ moods were evaluated weekly for consistency between the clinical tools and Moodscope and focus groups were conducted at the end of the 12-week period to ascertain user satisfaction and general feedback.

Drake found that surprisingly, the validity of Moodscope was robust. When compared to scores from the GAD-7 and the PHQ-9, Moodscope provided similar mood ratings for both depression and anxiety over the entire 12-week period. Users reported that the online mood tracker was easy to navigate and required little instruction. However, concerns arose regarding four major components of Moodscope.

First, the users reported that automated feedback provided by Moodscope was not very insightful and did not educate users about their mood states and what to do about them. They expressed an interest in a simpler layout and more concise feedback. Second, lack of helpful feedback resulted in decreased motivation, especially among those with higher mood awareness. Third, mood tracking itself was a deterrent for some as they did not want to focus on low mood states. And finally, the buddy system that is an integral part of Moodscope was unclear and caused obligation issues.

Designed as a sense of social support and accountability, this system instead left users wondering what their responsibilities were to buddies and what buddies were obligated to do for them. Overall, Drake believes Moodscope proved to be a viable and effective tool that could help clinicians and clients assess mood fluctuations. “For those who benefit from ongoing mood tracking and the social support provided by the buddy system, Moodscope could be an ongoing adjunct to therapy,” added Drake.

Reference:
Drake, G., E. Csipke, and T. Wykes. (2013). Assessing your mood online: Acceptability and use of moodscope. Psychological Medicine 43.7 (2013): 1455-64. ProQuest. Web.

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  • Remi

    Remi

    July 2nd, 2013 at 8:50 PM

    I have always thought these tools are only a gimmick.That they are an excuse to not taking the real route.Its not like a program or a smartphone app (yes there are mood tracking apps too!) could replace a clinician.It may give that excitement when it’s new but here the question to be asked is if its really beneficial.And I don’t think with the different kind of people this is too beneficial to most people.

  • EDD

    EDD

    July 3rd, 2013 at 4:10 AM

    An adjunct to therapy and not the only tool that one should utilize, either for themselves or for a friend. There is more to successful therapy than simply a tool that measures your mood online. I think that it can help as an addition to ongoing treatment but sould not be the only resource that you are using for help and recovery.

  • alison w

    alison w

    July 3rd, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    I know that some of these programs work, but like with anything else, it still is going to take some effort on the part of the participants to ensure that they are getting back to their optimum health. There is just not a quick little magic fix.

  • Clara

    Clara

    July 4th, 2013 at 7:03 AM

    I don’t necessarily think that this would be what I would look for BUT there are people who I know would get a big lift from doing something like this. Besides this is better than not seeking out any therapy at all, and there are mood issues and something like Mood scope helps, then who I am to say that it isn’t beneficial? To each his own, right?

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