People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may feel triggered by certain sights, smells and sounds of everyday life because these may take them back to the traumatic memories they are trying to forget or avoid. Prolonged exposure therapy is a common treatment for PTSD patients. This therapy teaches PTSD patients to become adapted to trauma-related memories, feelings and situations, and helps them learn that these cues are not dangerous and do not need to be avoided, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Now, researchers from Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) have developed a wristwatch device that can enhance therapy for PTSD patients by helping them adapt to stressful and trauma-related memories.
The study describing the findings was recently published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.
PTSD is a mental health condition in which a particular sound, a certain shop, or a kind of smell can bring back traumatic memories that can increase the heart rate and muscle tension, leading to anxiety and depression. Even if the situation which triggers these memories in a PTSD patient does not pose any real danger, the person might feel the urge to avoid those situations so that they do not feel sad or stressed.
According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), PTSD can happen to anyone at any age, and can be treated through medications as well as therapy.
The new device, called Bio Ware, is designed to enhance the effects of prolonged exposure therapy, and can record the patient’s heart rate, breathing and emotional distress. This is because as part of the Bio Ware system, the patient is made to wear a watch-sized tool around their wrist, attach a discreet button-shaped camera to their clothing, and wear a Bluetooth headphone in their ear, all of which allow their therapists to be virtually with the patients’ in their experience or situation that causes them stress, the study said. Since the therapists can see the patient’s heart rate and breathing, they can guide the person through the experience, optimising the in vivo exposure therapy.
The researchers collaborated with medical device company Zeriscope to test the wristwatch. They tested the device on service members at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, which serves veterans along the South Carolina and Georgia Coast. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, between 11 and 30 per cent of veterans experience symptoms of PTSD.
In vivo exposure therapy for PTSD patients involves putting them in safe but triggering and uncomfortable situations outside of their therapy sessions, as a form of homework, in order to make them adapt to those situations. For instance, if a patient has a fear of a crowde