As mentioned earlier this week, Anxiety UK is partnering with Virtually Free to provide their new Phobia Free app at no charge for those who wish to get sponsored in a challenge to overcome their fear of spiders. You can read more about how to get involved here.
Anxiety UK supporter, Matthew Lennox, has test drove Phobia Free and recently shared his review with us.
Phobia Free is Virtually Free’s latest app available for iOS (Android to follow later), following on from their earlier app Stress Free. This application deals with helping people overcome various phobias they’re suffering with. Currently the app is in development and tackles the issue of Arachnophobia exclusively, though new content is due to follow tackling further phobias. There are however further sections including: various relaxation techniques for dealing with phobias in general; anxiety statistics to monitor your progress along the way; a journal which allows you to record entries as you progress; and a stars system which showcases how well you’ve performed various tasks and areas where you may need to improve upon. There are also various links to further resources and links to social networking sites allowing you to share your progress with others.
So upon downloading and opening the app, you’re greeted with a colourful and playful menu system. At first glance it may appear to be somewhat confusing with its circular menu design, but soon becomes quite intuitive due to the clear notations, colour co-ordination and short descriptions for each menu option. So finding your way around becomes a lot easier quite quickly.
A short introduction welcomes you to the app and to animated character “Dr Freeman” who will guide you through much of the app.
In the section dealing with Arachnophobia, the app will guide you in overcoming your fear of spiders with the aid of a cartoon style animated spider character called “Itsy”. She’s very disarming, with her cute visual style, helping to bridge the gap between you as a user and the fear you’re attempting to overcome. Itsy will be your companion through various steps you’ll be asked to take to help you with your fears. The idea is to help Itsy and her spider friends with various problems they face in a fun game-like fashion, often playing the role of the spider itself in trying to survive perils, such as the vacuum cleaner.
The tasks are generally quite fun, visually impressive and accompanied by sounds and music. The idea of all these game-like tasks is to work towards desensitising you from your fear of spiders by allowing them to be less imposing. For example one of the tasks involves augmented reality, where you’re asked to take a picture of your close surroundings, followed by the app then placing a virtual spider on your screen, as if there in reality.
Itsy’s facial expressions when you succeed or bail out
Itsy’s mood will be affected by how well you perform in each of these tasks, so when you succeed she’ll be happy, and should you choose not to undergo a task her mood will reflect her sadness in this as well, building a connection with the character. A star score system will help you see how you’re progressing, and showcase any areas you feel you may need to improve.
Here you can see how well you’re performing as you go
The earlier seen character Dr Freeman with his calming voice, will guide you throughout the sections which deal solely with relaxation techniques. The relaxation sessions included in the app are designed to help you deal with both specific anxieties and fears, like Arachnophobia, but also those of everyday life. These sessions include exercises in Calm Breathing, Deep Muscle Relaxation, Self Hypnosis, and Meditation.
The app is still being developed and has a great deal of potential for the future. Based on the current design of the app, I’m looking forward to seeing how new sections are integrated and help people in an even wider range of ways.