A Subtle Conditioning Approach for Anxiety Relief Facilitation

Anxiety disorders represent a significant public health problem, affecting more than 280 million people worldwide. Although mobile and wearable interfaces have long been developed to improve mental health issues, most of the current approaches still operate in the so-called “reflective mind”. However, learning about self-regulation techniques and coping strategies for dealing with and learning about stress can be counterproductive when it comes to anxiety disorders, since reflecting on your own health data can enhance stress and anxiety symptoms. This work introduces an alternative method to mitigating anxiety symptoms through the use of a smart wearable interface, SCAARF, which implements a subconscious, less invasive approach in the design of assistive technologies for mental health, that takes advantage of a multimodal intervention (haptic and auditory) to help users cope with anxious states. Qualitative results suggest that the SCAARF mobile app is effective in helping users relax and cope with anxious states of mind, and that the scarf form-factor is perceived as comfortable, familiar (and thus non-intrusive). Moreover, user feedback shows the SCAARF wearable supports a calm state of mind, as it reminds users to relax.

Student: Laís Lopes

Advisor: Pedro Campos

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The Thesis

The Publication: INTERACT 2019