The ‘Social Anxiety Trainer’ is an Android application created in the context of the seminar “How to build a social computer?” at the DFKI (Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz). The interdisciplinary nature of the seminar helped a lot in gaining insights about how collaborative teamwork between Psychologists and Computer Scientists will allow us all to get a different perspective on our project. Our supervisors Dr. Patrick Gebhard and M.Sc. Tanja Schneeberger helped us to expand our views and ideas with their constructive feedback.
Our Team :
Computer Scientists: Swathi Krishnaraja, Annika Kremer, Timo Gühring
Psychologists: Jessica Hegemann, Melinda Kapitola
The project “Social Anxiety Trainer” is mainly designed for helping people who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder, also called as Social Phobia. According to studies, researchers found that the prevalence of anxiety disorder is around 13-14% in the population. The excessive fear of embarrassment in social and public situations can be overcome by training oneself mentally and physically. Our “Overcoming Social Anxiety App” is especially designed for such cases, where one can help himself develop and overcome the challenges in the social environment.
Our idea was it, to develop an Android app to give those people a simple and usable way to overcome their fears. The users should perform small but demanding tasks, which are individually adjusted for them, into their everyday lives to challenge themselves. The user will be rewarded for his progress and motivated whenever he feels it to be stressful. By the end of the training, the user will be able to overcome all the fears under social circumstances.
Conceptualization & Implementation:
Requirements : Smart Watch (Preferably Microsoft Band)
“Overcoming Social Anxiety app” is fully personalized. We analyze the current anxiety level of the user by collecting his heart rate (bpm) and a small questionnaire where he would rate how hard a described situation would be, if he is put under that condition.
We found that the effectiveness of the training would be better if we train the user under various social situations. So we categorized the situations into 5 groups, where each group will contain a set of tasks to be accomplished by the user.
Category 1 : Talking with Strangers
Category 2 : Speaking in public/people in authority
Category 3 : Interactions with opposite sex
Category 4 : Criticism and Embarrassment
Category 5 : Assertive expression of annoyance, disgust or displeasure
The psychologists conducted a case study with 21 participants to estimate the validity of the tasks to set under each category. After certain calculations we set the difficulty level of the tasks (low, medium, high).
The app closely monitors the users anxiety level through heart rate monitor. A short motivational message is sent when the user is found to be anxious. In extreme cases, we help the user by providing call feature to connect with their friends or family.
Personal growth and self evaluation can be visually seen through the daily activity graph. Continuous rewards are given throughout to motivate users to continue using the app.
The tasks will be adjusted based on their individual performance and after a while there will be a learning effect through the background of psychological exposure therapy. It is possible to use the app by yourself or under supervision. The collected data can be transmitted to a therapist, so the progress can be evaluated constantly. Possibly, in the future our app can serve as a useful therapy tool.
Spence, S. H. (2003). Social skills training with children and young people: Theory, evidence and practice. Child and adolescent mental health, 8, 84-96.
Grabhorn, R., Stenner, H., Stangier, U., & Kaufhold, J. (2006). Social anxiety in anorexia and bulimia nervosa: The mediating role of shame. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy: An International Journal of Theory & Practice, 13, 12-19.
Schneider, F. R., Blanco, C., Antia, S. X., & Liebowitz, M. R. (2002). The social anxiety spectrum. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 25(4), 757-774.