Can a Mobile App Really Treat ADHD?

August 2, 2013 by Dr. Yannick Pauli

An interesting press release arrived at my inbox this morning.  MindMed, a developer of neuro-cognitive treatment technologies for psychiatric disorders, just released a mobile app designed to treat ADHD in kids and adults. The app is fully optimized for a mobile device, and is said to treat ADHD symptoms by increasing attention, concentration, and focus. It might sound like a good idea to have such a treatment easily accessible on your smart phone, but can an app really treat ADHD?

MindMed’s app is the first of its kind. While digital treatments for ADHD have been around for some time, they are exclusively available to laptops or desktops, and cost hundreds of dollars to purchase. On the other hand, MindMed’s app is only retailing for $9.99, keeping true to the company’s promise to make ADHD treatments more accessible.

The treatment works by using specially-designed brain exercises that target specific cognitive skills like impulse control, which are underdeveloped among ADHD kids. The exercises are broken into 1-2 minute segments, allowing ADHD patients to connect with it while waiting in line or at home.  The treatment video explains this in further detail.

Although I have yet to try this app myself, I have some doubts as to whether this type of technology is appropriate for young kids or teens. Smart phones, by nature, provide a huge amount of information that competes with attention. It’s easy for the app to be ignored for more exciting games or social media sites relevant to a teen’s interest. Ultimately, smart phones make ADHD worse by inhibiting healthy sleep and stealing precious time away from things that can actually help a child overcome the disorder, like physical play.

It’s also not good to rely on just a single treatment to manage symptoms. While it’s great that a more accessible treatment is now available on mobile phones, it’s not a miracle cure for ADHD, nor should you rely on this app alone to treat symptoms. If the studies backing up MindMed’s technology is true, then this app might serve as a good supplement to the ADHD treatment plan designed by your doctor. But in order to truly address the causes of ADHD and determine proper treatment, an evaluation from the appropriate professional is needed.