How can a smartphone app disrupt compulsion?

Long ago, I realized that Addiction is an anxiety-based disorder. I also realized that compulsion is the key target of any given addiction. While I still think that a pen and notebook are the best tools to disrupt a compulsive cycle, I have come to also think that smartphones can be better leveraged to target the compulsive nature of an addiction. This idea is based on the simple fact that smartphone use is, in and of itself, compulsive. If we could use smartphones to actively disrupt a compulsion towards substance use, then we may be able to redirect a person away from the addiction, as a whole.

For example, while there are several recovery-based apps, I have yet to see one that actively monitors whether a person is triggered or not. How can an app actively monitor whether someone is triggered? Well, through heart rate variability (HRV). I envision a heart rate monitor that someone in recovery would wear and report to a smartphone app. The app would poll the monitor and if the HRV increases at a rate not indicated by exercise, then it would provide good evidence that a person is triggered.

Once the HRM has increased, the app would launch and interface with the person in recovery through a game I envision called counting sheep. This game would send 10 sheep across the screen at varying intervals with the goal of the person tapping the sheep to change focus from the circumstance causing the trigger and to slow the heart rate. Once all 10 sheep are counted, then the app would “ask” the user if he or she is ok and if he or she needs support. If he or she is ok, the app is released. If he or she is not ok, the app would text the person deemed as the best contact when triggered.

Now, this idea exists in my mind and I have neither developed a prototype nor even fleshed out the above use case. However, I do know that enough evidence exists to suggest that in theory, this idea should work to disrupt a compulsion.

I believe that someone in early recovery may not be aware enough of him or her self to know when he or she is actually triggered. But, an active app as I’ve described at a high-level could be yet another weapon in the fight against Addiction. stay tuned…oh and if there’s active apps already in existence, please let me know so that i can review them…

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