eMoods Bipolar Mood Tracker

EMoods Bipolar Mood Tracker: Android (free/donationware); iOS/Kindle “coming soon”

Developer Website: http://emoodtracker.com/

There is good evidence that various types of therapy, including CBT, are helpful in reducing the impact of Bipolar Disorder on the lives of clients and their families. In most CBT, some sort of thought log is a central piece of the homework that the client is given. When treating a client for Bipolar Disorder, it is also helpful to have “big picture” data on trends in your clients’ mood state. This can help you identify triggers, situations in which your client did not take their medicine, changes in sleep cycle (which are notoriously difficult to self-report without notes), and other data that can help frame treatment. Knowledge about this data, among other things, will in time help your client to identify situations in which manic episodes may be likely to happen. It can also help them plan to head off severe changes in mood when possible. Early identification of a possible change in mood state, combined with rush outpatient treatment for medication and crisis management, can hopefully minimize the risk of hospitalization for your client.

One tool that I have commonly used with Bipolar clients is the BEAM, a mood chart that tracks medication, sleep, weight change, anxiety/irritability, and other notes about a client’s functioning. It has all of the weaknesses of any self-report, but clients can learn to complete it accurately with very little practice.

There are a few such tools in the smartphone app space that attempt to do something similar. One of these is the eMoods tracker, which is designed specifically with Bipolar Disorder in mind. The developer notes that they worked from the list of information that is collected by the mood chart that is utilized by the Massachusetts General Hospital Bipolar Clinic and Research Program. This app has all of the information that you will find on the BEAM, aside from a place for weight (which could go into a daily note anyway). At the top is a place to enter amount of sleep, ranging from zero (red flag, right?) to 24. Clients identify themselves as have No, Mild, Moderate, or Severe symptoms in four areas: Depression, Elevated mood, Irritability, and Anxiety. There is also a checkbox for “psychotic symptoms” and whether or not someone attended a therapy session on that day. Each entry line has a small help screen with descriptive reminders for each category. Toward the bottom is a place for daily notes, which is limited to 300 characters due to the formatting of the output .pdf; the help section states 60, but this is in error. Last comes a place to enter medications. The information can be entered once per day, and can be changed later – although I usually encourage clients to do these tasks at the end of the day.

You can view summaries within the app via the “calendar” and “graph” tabs, which give you either a list of the past 40 days or a monthly graph of mood states (see screenshot). You can also email a report in .pdf format. It is a four-page report that looks similar to the BEAM. There is a setting for daily alarms, but its functionality is severely limited at this point. The app states that improved reminders are “coming soon.” It would be great to be able to manage medications completely within this app, as opposed to using a separate app.

On a side note, the developer’s website has a link to a website with international suicide hotline numbers – something that I frankly had not thought of before.

Regarding data security, this app definitely keeps data that your client would want to keep away from prying eyes. There is no password or other security built into the app, so you should instruct them on how to keep their phone secure if they are not already doing so. (If you can’t discuss and demonstrate this option, I would argue that you are not fulfilling informed consent requirements of treatment. Clients of course are still free to not bother).  This app does email reports. You can leave your name off of the report, which may be helpful to you if these will often be sent to you. While email of course states who it is from, it may still be comforting to have a de-identified report.

The UI is pretty clean and very easy to follow. The reports are also easy to understand. Given the format of the pdf report, it would be nice if daily written entries could be longer. Another drawback is the medication entry. If there are meds that are taken BID or TID, they will need each to be entered individually (and probably labeled as morning/midday/night). It would be helpful to be able to add a medication once and be done with it. There was one notable bug – I think that the app attempts to fill in common medications, but the list can’t be seen under the keyboard.

In general, this is a well-laid out app that covers most of the data that you would probably want to track in a client with Bipolar Disorder. Technically, it could also keep track of unipolar depression or anxiety, but there are other apps that might better fit that niche.

If you or your client use this with regularity, I urge you to purchase the “donate” app in the Google Play store. I’m really a fan of this model of software sales, and from a practical perspective this is the best way to keep this app in active development. I much prefer this model to one where we get free apps which include ads.

Ratings:

Content: 4.5/5 – Covers most data of interest; better medication entry and reminders would be an improvement.

User Interface: 4.5/5 – Easy to navigate, minimal, nonintrusive bugs, good disclaimers and reminders for clients who are filling out the day’s data.

** Disclaimer: While some of these apps may be helpful to you, NOTHING that I review is a replacement for therapy services from a qualified, licensed psychotherapist. If you are reading this because you or someone you care for needs it for mental health reasons, get them live help ASAP. Also, if you haven’t yet, read A Few Words on Security, which contains tips on keeping your and your client’s smartphone data safe from unwanted eyes.

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