There’s a Bipolar App For That, Part II: Beyond Just Mood Tracking

Posted on June 22, 2012 by

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Okay. Let’s accept the premise that someone has talked you into the importance of monitoring your bipolar disorder–whether it was your psychiatrist or physician, your therapist, your husband or children, or some genius whose blog you read.

And you’re savvy enough to realize that mobile devices have it all over schlepping around pencil and paper charts which get lost, go through the wash in your jeans, can’t really account for all the information you should track–and don’t draw totally groovy graphs and charts which you can, with the utmost dignity common in our day and age, share with your friends on Twitter and Facebook.

Perhaps in yesterday’s post you found an app that struck your fancy to use to help keep track of your mood and manage your bipolar illness.

If not, I’ve got a few more options for you

But I don’t just have more mood tracking apps for your delectation–I have suggestions for other ways of coping with your situation. I hope you’ll find something helpful–although one, I must confess up front, seems a pretty goofy approach.

There’s no accounting for taste, I suppose. Just see if anything here appeals.

CTH Mood Tracker

Put out by the Cheryl T. Herman (CTH) Foundation, the MoodTracker is not as detailed as the Otpimism or T2 MoodTracker apps (see last post), but has some unique details that are nice touches.

Using a slider scale you measure your mood (there are no numbers, it just ranges from severely depressed to severely elevated), computer your hours of sleep, assess your functionality level on a 10-point scale, and indicate (again with a slider), whether you’re in a mixed state.

You list your medications and check off each day whether you’ve taken it [although there's no way to indicate if you took, say, one of 3 doses, or, in fact, if you had a side effect]–something not as common as I’d expect in mood tracking apps.

You create goals for yourself and check them off each day, and this is the only bipolar app so far where I’ve seen that. I found it useful and self-focusing.

There’s some things on there that don’t apply to everyone–you vote yes or no on whether you took street drugs, nicotine, or alcohol (here you number your drinks)–and whether you’re menstruating. [I hope these don't apply to everyone, that's for sure.]

Oddly in this one there’s no questions about exercise or healthy eating, and, odder still, aside from the question about ‘mood’ and ‘functionality level’ there’s nothing that addresses specific symptoms.

There’s a space for a note at the bottom where you’re supposed to write “the events of the day that impacted your mood.”

Because this is not connected to anything specific, I don’t find it as helpful as an app where you would write next to each event you record what its impact was–but it’s a start.

Then, of course, it graphs your information, and actually includes the main details, but once again, like with Optimism, leaves out a chunk of information you’ve entered, like whether you’ve taken your meds, taken drugs, have your period, or had too much caffeine.

What’s unusual about this app is that, under ‘Video,’ it offers clips by psychiatrists that answer questions posed by people affected by mood disorders. And there’s a 30-minute audio relaxation which includes stress relief meditations.

It also includes access right from your phone to Emily’s Corner Blog (see posts here), which addresses topics such as Allergies and Depression, Laughter and Recovery, and Why Mood Charting Helps. It’s not as innovative or creative as many of the excellent blogs on bipolar there are out there, but it is something to read if you’re stuck waiting for your psychiatrist for 35 minutes, as has been known to happen.

This one is $4.99 for the iPhone and Android.

Mood Panda

Does this mood panda avatar suit me?

Mood Panda bills itself as an interactive mood diary. It has some ‘cutesy’ touches, which may or may not appeal. For instance, you can pick your own mood panda as your avatar [check out the one at the right to get some idea of what's up here]. Its mood rating system is much less than what I dream of at night. The “Update Mood” page greets you, “How are you, ‘X’?,” and then has you rate mood on a slider between 0 [which must be pretty darned bad] to 10. You can put in a reason for your mood, but it’s totally optional. Lest you deprive the world of this wealth of information, you can then share this illuminating number via Twitter or Facebook.

This really strikes me as quite a bit on the minimal side, although–as always with these apps–Mood Panda is willing to graph that number for you.

In a totally unique twist, it will also graph your mood against, Scout’s honor, the “World Mood.’ When I was charting, apparently ‘the World’ had slid its little mood slider to a ’5.’ Hard to say if that had to do with the Supreme Court and health care, the fall of the Greek currency, massacres in Syria–or perhaps the overall tone was lifted by John Edwards’ getting off scot-free. It’s just so hard to say what a ’5′ means.*

Did you know ‘The World’ was mood tracking, too?

There’s a page that’s called “Recent Public Moods” which struck me as a Twitter for passing mood fancies. One had written just ‘ugh’ [she was a '3'], one had written, for real, “almost fell in the shower but was saved with a cost of bumping a leg to the bathtub wall, but I almost felt like passing out.” He was a 4. I searched out a ’10,’ wondering myself what that would feel like, and found, “NEW IPHONE CASE FOR FREE!!!. . .it’s purple!” Now I know what true happiness is.

With an official blog hosted by Tumblr, it’s free for iPhones, has a nice website, and promises an app for Androids is coming soon.

[*If discovering the World Mood with an app without having to do any real investigative work is your bag, you're lucky to have a second choice to avail yourself of, as well. Tweet World Mood advertises itself with this great sell:

If you are to [sic] busy or in to [sic] much of a hurry to read the news you can use Tweet World Mood to give you an instant reading of the current mood of the world. Major changes to world emotions mean something important has happened which is your cue to go online and find out what.

Since the writers were apparently in too much of a hurry to add on the appropriate extra ‘o’ to their ‘to’s, it makes me a bit skeptical, but looking into it was good for a lark. Now back to regularly scheduled programming.

Bipolar Disorder Connect

Bipolar Disorder Connect is not particularly what would help me if I had a mood disorder, but enough people do find it helpful–and its discussions are certainly busy enough to indicate a significant following–that I include it.

As opposed to truly being a mood-tracking device, this app is about connecting with others with bipolar disorder, and assumedly getting support that way.

Any tracking that goes on occurs under the ‘Activity’ page, where it asks you, ‘How do you feel?” and you can respond by sliding to any of 5 faces, which go from expressing deep distress to looking blissfully ecstatic. That’s it–just how you feel, from flat-out to thrilled. No mention of fatigue, of sleep, of meds, of energy level, of distractibility, or coping mechanisms–just these little smiling or frowning emoticons.

I was convinced there had to be a way to graph this illuminating information, since that’s what all the mood charting devices brag about–but I couldn’t locate one after over an hour of trying. That may just not be their bag.

Its more robust tab is the one for ‘Discussion’ that says it covers topics like symptoms, treatment, therapy, family issues, etc, but it doesn’t cover them in any formal way. You can follow the discussions and comment on the go.

What I found here seemed less practical than I would have liked, including the one which I found oddly disturbing entitled “Mania Stories! Got Any?: What did you do when you were manic?” and had 128 responses which were not particularly what one would hope for: “I grounded a plane for 40 minutes once;” “I’d shave my head, go on drinking binges, slept on park encodes for the hell of it, and stay up for days straight reading everything I could find. . .;” or “I drew all over my apartment wall with a pen.”

Another illuminating thread begins, “I need something fun to do.” I’m sure you’ve got the idea. And anyone is free to start a discussion and ‘connect’ that way, with the responses [and this is quite a responsive group].

Like with Twitter the members can ‘follow’ each other, and keep track of–and stay in touch with–their followers.

If you’re prone to any mood instability, I would highly recommend a second app to chart symptoms, triggers, etc, but many people feel good about the sense of connection they get through Bipolar Disorder Connect, and remark that they don’t feel so alone.

It’s free and compatible with the iPhone and iPad, but does come with this warning (totally unique to bipolar apps in my experience): It’s “Rated 12+ for the following:”

  • Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content or Nudity
  • Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References
  • Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor
  • Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes

Bipolar Bear

This one’s not coming with my endorsement, but I didn’t want you to feel I was holding back on the subject of bipolar apps.

Bipolar Bear leaves you to your own devices for mood tracking, one of the most crucial services I believe these apps offer. Instead it provides a very, mmm, alterative service.

The deal with this app is it plays off the image of Bipolar almost as a split personality, as a person divided between two moods. And, to redeem itself, the money used from its profits goes towards bipolar disorder research.

So, what does it do?

Well, the service it offers (and how did we live without it?) is blurting out what the developers call “funny, random, sound bytes.” They were certainly random–and definitely sound bytes. I wasn’t jelling with the humor–but keep in mind I’m over the hill.

When you launch Bipolar Bear, you use the Settings button to change how frequently Bipolar Bear will talk while the app is running (if you’re really adventurous I suppose you could keep him going every 15 minutes–but anyone near you on the subway would throttle you to death, so best be careful about when you choose to have it running).

Tout the developers, “While you can choose how frequently Bipolar Bear speaks, you can’t tell him what to say. You never know what mood he’s going to be in.”

Aha. Here’s where the excitement comes in. Sometimes’s he’s in a happy mood, sometimes depressed. What he says will reflect his mood.

I usually like to download and test out all these apps myself before blogging about them, but I balked at the $0.99 fee for Bipolar Bear.

We all have to have our standards.

So I provide you with the links I myself heard–and, with lips sealed, leave you to determine how funny his sayings are–and if they would contribute to healing of your mood disorder.

Listen to Bipolar Bear when he’s happy!

Listen to Bipolar Bear when he’s depressed.

However, I do commend the app’s creators, in that 30% of net proceeds from sales of the app go directly to one of an excellent lineup of non-for-profit organizations that work to make life better for people with

BD. You can see the complete list, which includes such all-stars as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Mental Health America, and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance here.

Points for creativity, I guess.

Health Manager

While neither a mood tracking device nor specifically for bipolar, this is one of my favorite mobile health apps for people who take a sizeable number of meds, who change meds a lot, or who struggle with side effects. You can also keep track of a number of people on the app at the same time, so you can monitor your son’s diabetes and your husband’s heart condition with one and the same application.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure I must tell you that Health Manager works only on iPhones and iPads–and is a whopping $4.99, which causes sticker-shock in app-land. I believe it’s fully worth it, but if you must take a moment to get over your distress I understand. Just pick up again with me here when you’re ready.

So on the app’s home page there’s a slider for ‘overall feeling,’ which you can choose to use or not, as you see fit. It’s not that important in the scheme of this application’s performance.

There you’ll also see the tabs: one for Meds, one for Symptoms, one for Measurements, and one for Notes.

You enter your medications and dosages, and then when you take the med you just click and enter a time. You have the option, which I like, of making a short comment each time you take a med, which shows up later in your report.

This app obviously serves as a reminder of what meds you’ve taken when–something that’s important for people who take multiple medications.

You fill in your Symptoms, too [although a number are pre-filled, like nausea and constipation and fatigue], then select the symptom when you’re experiencing it, slide the ‘intensity bar’ from a 1-10, and, if you so desire, make a note. [For example, my daughter could write, under 'Headache, 5,' 'headache is fairly bad but I think I'll just not take the medication that could help it'-see below.]

For Measurements, a number are prefilled: temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, and weight. Again, you can add more. As with the Notes and Symptoms, it time stamps when you’re filling in the information (and, yes, if you’re like my daughter and enter stats later, you can edit the date and time, no worries), and again you can make a comment.

Finally there’s the ‘Notes’ section, which is useful for just about anything that isn’t made obvious by the medicine-symptom-measurement correlations. You can write that you have a hard time remembering your meds, that your sleep is off, that you want to remember to ask the doctor for an alternative medicine (which he’ll understand when you show him your visual of how the original medicine is effecting sleep and weight, or some such thing).

It’s often illuminating exactly what results–positive and adverse–your meds are causing, and it shows a lot about compliance, too.

For example, my daughter, who loves a graphic even more than I do, is, as I’ve mentioned, constantly playing with her iPhone, and, when all else fails, she’ll input her health data. This app works particularly well for her, as she takes a cocktail of meds, and she loves getting the little line graphs and sharing them with all and sundry.

I found this one particularly amusing, but it does show you what the Health Manager can do in terms of indicating effectiveness of medicine–when you don’t take it, in this case. My daughter has headaches, and finds that Excedrin Migraine works wonders–but here’s last week’s visual of the Excedrin-headache fiasco:

Right. If you don’t take your medicine (the Excedrin is the flatlined red), it’s unlikely it will help you. How would we ever have known that without our little app’s line graph?

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I recognize that there’s a host of mood tracking applications I haven’t gone into. Maybe one day I’ll return to the topic, and I’m receptive to requests if there’s one you’d like to know more about. But for now I’ll leave you with some other ideas of what people use, just so that if nothing so far fits your bill, you know there are more options:

Good luck on your journey–and stick with it.