Q: Are there smartphone apps specifically for people who experience eating disorders?
A: Yes. Three*
1. Rise Up + Recover www.recoverywarriors.com/app
2. Recovery Record – RR www.recoveryrecord.com
3. MindShift www.anxietycanada.com/resources/mindshift-cbt
Q: Is this the shortest blog post in the history of humans?
A: No. Please read on for elaboration, geeky stuff and a disclaimer (look for the red asterisk* below).
Recently I was chatting with someone who experiences an eating disorder and was asked whether there were any apps specific to their circumstances. I was a bit busy at work, and only had time to to check-out Australia’s digital mental health hub Head To Health, and found nothing specific to eating disorders there. A few things pop-up on a google search, but when you’re a health professional you need to be careful about prescribing digital technologies. As articulated in editorials, letters, journal articles and blogs, health professionals have a responsibility to do no harm, and provide credible, evidence-based information if giving advice re apps, websites or other digital technologies.
Fairburn and Rothwell (2015, p. 1038) took a systematic approach to clinical appraisal of eating disorder apps, and concluded, “The enthusiasm for apps outstrips the evidence supporting their use.” Ouch.
But that was way back in 2015, some people are still giving eating-disorder-specific app development a go, and digital therapeutics evolve quickly, so I thought it was worth doing a search of credible sources anyway.
After searching Head To Health, later (in my own time boss) I had a look at the Queensland Eating Disorder Service (QuEDS) resource page, the Butterfly Foundation website, and the Eating Disorders Victoria site and couldn’t find recommendations for apps. I then signed-up for ORCHA (“the world’s leading health app evaluation and advisor organisation“) and did a search there – that yielded poor results. Searching ORCHA for “eating disorder” was too broad and yielded a list of food/diet-related apps. Searching ORCHA for “anorexia nervosa” yielded two apps that had a green rating – one was a NHS/UK-only app, and when I clicked the other one on the App Store the top review spoke about their weight-loss. It might be a good app, but I’m afraid to share it here. That sort of thing would probably be laughed-off with an eye roll by someone who is living with an eating disorder and is in a good head space, but could really throw a spanner in the works for someone who isn’t in a good head space. The mortality rate of eating disorders is a worry, so primum non nocere.
Then I stumbled into the Centre for Eating and Dieting Disorder (CEDD) website and found a resource called “Navigating Your Way to Health” and, lo and behold, found this on page 33:
Using apps can be a handy way of helping you in your journey to recovery. We’ve listed some FREE apps here that might be useful. The following apps have been designed to help people with eating disorders to empower you to be in control of your recovery.
> Rise Up + Recover
> Recovery Record – RR
Although it was listed in the resource above, I left the recoveryBox app off my list at the top of the page because as at 09/08/20 (today) their website isn’t working. The app is still available on the App Store, but as the website is out of action, I’m guessing the app isn’t being updated any more. “Navigating Your Way To Health” was published in 2016 and, as noted above, digital therapeutics evolve quickly. It seems they devolve quickly too.
I’m pretty confident this is credible information as of right now, but who knows what reviews are underway or what apps are in development? Not me. For all I know there will be a fantastic Australian app co-produced by consumers/survivors, clinicians and academics tomorrow. I hope so. Just in case, check in on CEDD if you’re reading this after 09/08/20.
As noted in my recent blog post regarding the stepped care model (“One. Step. Beyond.” meta4RN.com/step) the concept of “one size fits all” doesn’t apply in mental health recovery. On the same theme, apps can be a useful addition to other strategies and useful for maintenance/relapse prevention. They should not be relied on alone if someone is experiencing significant symptoms of poor health.
I won’t pretend for a moment to have any special insight into what is a useful app for people who are experiencing an eating disorder, and don’t really have the time, skill-set or funding to undertake an independent review. I do trust the credibility of CEDD though, and if they say these apps are OK, who am I to say otherwise?
As originally noted in September 2012 (see number 13 here: meta4RN.com/about), the views and opinions I express here or on related social media portals do not represent the views of my employer. That really should be taken for granted, but anyway…
One last thing in this section: I don’t have any financial/other ties to any of the organisations or apps named above.
Daya, I., Hamilton, B. and Roper, C. (2020), Authentic engagement: A conceptual model for welcoming diverse and challenging consumer and survivor views in mental health research, policy, and practice. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 29(2): 299-31.
Fairburn, C.G. and Rothwell, E.R. (2015) Apps and eating disorders: A systematic clinical appraisal. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 48: 1038-1046.
Ferguson, C., Hickman, L., Wright, R., Davidson, P. & Jackson, D. (2018) Preparing nurses to be prescribers of digital therapeutics, Contemporary Nurse, 54(4-5): 345-349.
Hunter Institute of Mental Health and the Centre for Eating and Dieting Disorders (2016). Navigating Your Way to Health: A brief guide to approaching the challenges, treatments and pathways to recovery from an eating disorder. NSW Ministry of Health.
Neumayr, C, Voderholzer, U, Tregarthen, J, Schlegl, S. (2019) Improving aftercare with technology for anorexia nervosa after intensive inpatient treatment: A pilot randomized controlled trial with a therapist‐guided smartphone app. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 52: 1191– 1201
Søgaard Neilsen, A. & Wilson, R.L. (2019) Combining e‐mental health intervention development with human computer interaction (HCI) design to enhance technology‐facilitated recovery for people with depression and/or anxiety conditions: An integrative literature review. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 28(1): 22-39.
Wilson, R.L. (2018) The right way for nurses to prescribe, administer and critique digital therapies, Contemporary Nurse, 54(4-5): 543-545.
That’s it. Thanks for reading down this far 🙂
As always, you’re welcome to leave feedback in the comments section below.
Paul McNamara, 9 August 2020
Short URL meta4RN.com/app