Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Guest Post - Stephen Smith - CEO of No OCD - The Key to Breaking the Stigma

I have OCD, a chronic mental health condition characterized by terrifying, irrational fears and ritualistic actions done to reduce fear-produced anxiety. I’m not alone: there are about 181,000,000 people on this planet battling OCD, and billions more fighting similar mental illnesses. 

Some are open about their struggles, but many hide them secretly, in fear of others “finding out” that their brain is not functioning properly. In fact, statistically speaking, somebody close to you is suffering from a mental illness, and they most likely have been marginalized by the broken mental health treatment system. Unlike other forms of health care, mental health services are not structured to treat patients successfully.

For instance, when seeking treatment for a mental illness, patients often have to:
1) find a licensed mental health clinician (usually found online or through a trusted referral) 
2) subjectively disclose any problems faced to their clinician; and
3) listen to their clinician’s diagnosis and advice for treatment.

On the other hand, when getting treatment for a “physical condition”, like high blood pressure, the process slightly differs. 
If patients with high blood pressure decide to seek treatment, they will: 
1) find a clinician either online or through a referral; 
2) get their blood pressure taken by a blood pressure monitor; and 
3) listen to their clinician’s diagnosis and treatment advice.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, step 2 exemplifies the stark disparity between the treatment approaches. The key difference is the blood pressure monitor, since it can extract data from the patient without human error, helping clinicians objectively monitor each patient’s condition. 

From that objective data, the clinician can make better decisions and give the patient an opportunity to live a healthy life. You may ask, “well why can’t this be done for mental health?” Great question; it can be, and it’s starting to be, replacing the need for people with mental illness to explain their symptoms
subjectively. With the global increase in people owning smartphones and the emergence of wearable technology, we can now passively monitor exactly how patients are responding to different mental health episodes. 

Then, with the longitudinal data gathered, clinicians can see an outline of their patients’ mental health condition in real time and prescribe treatment accordingly.
Since this technology is already here, it’s just a matter of time until mental health and physical health are viewed similarly, and the stigma surrounding mental illness is broken, given that the treatments will together be similarly objective. 

Symptoms of anxiety that are mainly described subjectively today will be described physiologically in the near future, where people will just point to a graph and say to someone, “see I suffer from OCD”, or “look at how my PTSD is improving since last year”. With more proof, there will be more power, equipping patients to get better treatment and enabling them to “worry less and live more”


The description: This is a guest post by Stephen Smith, Founder and CEO of nOCD. nOCD gives people with OCD effective therapy and real-time data about their treatment, helping users worry less and live more.