Volunteers Wanted: Understanding the Ups and Downs of the Psyche

AGet up, read email, go to work, write a few messages to friends and family in between: if you read data on a mobile phone, you get an accurate picture of the user’s daily routine. How many kilometers do you drive a day, how many minutes are average phone calls, how many messages are written, how many different contacts are maintained? Such data should be brought together in a study coordinated by the University Hospital Frankfurt.

According to Andreas Reif, director of the Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, the goal is to better understand and treat the mechanisms and causes of mood swings in people with certain mental illnesses. The project, titled Dynamics of Affect Modulation in Nervous Developmental Disorders, Dynamond for short, is co-funded by the EU Commission with 1.3 million euros and is collaborating with researchers from France, Norway, Italy, Denmark, Spain and Switzerland.

The basic assumption about how mood swings, which patients themselves perceive as problems, begins is simple: if the user significantly deviates from their usual habits, for example, stops communicating with friends, this may be a sign of a change in their mood.

Borderline or ADHD sign

In parallel with the data transmission via smartphone, to which the subjects must give their consent, the study participants are asked to answer questions about their current mental state in the application. According to Reif, the study period is deliberately extended by one year in order to collect as much data as possible. But also increase the chance to understand the change of high and low phases in the daily life of the subject.

Mood swings are common with many mental illnesses, but are especially common with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and ADHD in adulthood. Mood swings can vary greatly in their severity depending on the clinical picture. According to Reif, people with bipolar disorder often experience longer episodes of mania or depression. The consequences are often severe, and the deviations from the basic mood, defined by the patient as “normal”, are enormous. However, these patients often balance ups and downs and can regulate themselves and their moods well.

However, this is not always possible for patients with ADHD or borderline disorders. True, their deviations from the main mood in duration and intensity are not as pronounced as in people suffering from bipolar disorders. However, they may have trouble regulating their immediate emotions. At the same time, however, there are people who suffer from different forms of mood swings at the same time, which sometimes makes therapy and diagnosis difficult.

The results of a long-term study should help determine the mechanisms underlying mood swings. What does it cause? And how do they present themselves? “Many mood swings are unpredictable and out of control for patients. It’s incredibly exhausting for her.”

After evaluating the data, patients should be able to better predict what might throw them off balance. What external influences cause, for example, stress? Are there warning signs to draw from your own behavior? “The patient has to become an expert in their disease,” Reif says.

“We feel responsible for every person”

On the way there psychologists want to help. If the evaluation of the data indicates an imminent crisis, contact is sought with the study participants. In addition, test persons are always available for communication. “We feel responsible for every person who is here at the clinic for research.” The international research team hopes the results will lead to new treatment approaches. The initial diagnosis should no longer be the deciding factor for drug therapy suggestions, but should be the “mood type” that the patient fits.

“We want to move from the classical diagnostic system to transdiagnostic treatment,” says Reif. This means that treatment can be more focused on symptoms rather than diagnosis. “We want to offer the patient the right treatment and help faster and more accurately,” Reif says.

According to the director of the clinic, there is no empirical evidence to test the theory. “Until now, we have relied on clinical observations. The living conditions of the patients have never been measured,” he says. 120 patients with each disease under the age of 40 are sought for research throughout Europe. In addition, a comparison group that does not have a comparable diagnosis should be interviewed.

By focusing on young people, Dynamond wants to help identify and treat disease at an early stage in the future. The findings should also contribute to future research projects. They are collected anonymously in a large database.

This should also be made available to researchers from other projects so that links between diseases can be more thoroughly explored and new treatment strategies can be developed. According to Rife, the project should have started much earlier. But since the GDPR is interpreted with varying degrees of rigor in the countries involved, harmonization has become a huge feat.

Affected people and others interested in participating can contact [email protected] or call 0 69/6 30 18 54 28.

Source: Frantfurter Allgemeine

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