Mental Health Startup Uses Voice ‘Biomarkers’ To Detect Signs Of Depression And Anxiety

Young female character having a panic attack, an imaginary monster shadow silhouette, mental health issues, psychology

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” Rima Seiilova-Olson says slowly and emphatically over Zoom.

The simple sentence holds enormous value for mental health care, she explains, smiling as if to acknowledge that it might be less than obvious how a silly phrase could be so meaningful to a computer programmer and leader of an artificial intelligence startup.

The short saying contains every letter of the alphabet and phoneme in the English language, says Seiilova-Olson, an immigrant from Kazakhstan who is cofounder and chief scientist of Kintsugi Mindful Wellness. Kintsugi believes these sounds offer invaluable insight that can help mental health providers better support people with depression and anxiety.

The Bay Area-based company is building AI software that analyzes short clips of speech to detect depression and anxiety. This so-called voice biomarker software is being integrated into clinical call centers, telehealth services and remote monitoring apps to screen and triage patients reaching out for support, helping providers more quickly and easily assess their needs and respond.

“There’s just not a lot of visibility as to who is severely depressed or anxious.”

Kintsugi CEO and co-founder Grace Chang

Seiilova-Olson, 36, first met co-founder and CEO Grace Chang, 40, a Taiwanese immigrant now based in Berkeley, in 2019 at an open AI hackathon in San Francisco. Surprised to cross paths at a male-dominated event, the women began comparing notes about their respective personal challenges trying to access mental health care:

Seiilova-Olson had struggled to secure a therapist during postpartum depression with her first child, and when Chang had needed her own support, she said it had taken months for anyone from Kaiser to call her back.

“Living in the Bay Area, you can push a button and a car can come to you or food can come to you,” Chang says. “But this was really a challenge.” As engineers, they viewed the dilemma differently than clinicians might.

“We saw this as an infrastructure problem, where you have so many people trying to jam through that front door,” Chang explains. “But there’s just not a lot of visibility as to who is severely depressed or anxious, who is low-to-moderate. And if we could provide this information to those frontline practitioners, then we’d maybe have an opportunity to greatly alleviate that bottleneck.”

Kintsugi was born out of that idea in 2019. It sits in a competitive space of health tech startups like Ellipsis Health and Winter Light Labs that are using voice biomarkers to detect mental health or cognitive issues, built on research showing that certain linguistic patterns and characteristics of a person’s voice can be correlated with psychiatric or neurological conditions.

Kintsugi last year raised $8 million in seed funding led by Acrew Capital, and in February, announced it had closed a $20 million Series A round led by Insight Partners, which valued the company at nearly $85 million, according to PitchBook.

In-person mental health facilities typically use questionnaires to gauge the severity of patients’ anxiety or depression, measures known as PHQ-9 and GAD-7 scores. But during telehealth visits or phone consults — where face-to-face interaction is lost, making it harder to pick up on symptoms — Kintsugi’s technology helps to fill that gap.

Nicha Cumberbatch, assistant director of public health at Spora Health, a provider focused on health equity and people of color, uses Kintsugi’s software to assess women in its all-virtual, doula-led maternal health program, Spora Mommas.

The voice analysis tool, which Spora began using for patient consultations a few weeks ago, has helped Cumberbatch identify women who are, or may be at risk of, experiencing anxiety and depression before, during or after their pregnancies. When a patient starts speaking to a Spora clinician or doula on Zoom, Kintsugi’s AI begins listening to and analyzing her voice.

After processing 20 seconds of speech, the AI will then spit out the patient’s PHQ-9 and GAD-7. The employee can then use that mental health score to decide what additional testing may be needed and how best to advise or direct the patient to resources — like a psychiatrist, cognitive behavioral therapist or obstetrician.

Cumberbatch says Kintsugi’s technology is allowing her to “​​keep a more watchful eye” on her patients “and then move forward with proactive recommendations around mitigating their symptoms.” And while it’s not meant to replace clinicians or formal medical evaluations, she adds, it can be used as a screening tool to “allow us to have a more well-rounded, 360-view of the patient when we don’t have them in front of our face.”

“That technology… [allows] us to have a more well-rounded, 360-view of the patient when we don’t have them in front of our face.”

Nicha Cumberbatch, assistant director of public health at Spora Health

Dr. ​​Jaskanwal Deep Singh Sara, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist who has collaborated with Ellipsis and led research on potential uses of voice biomarkers for cardiology, cautions that while the technology is promising for health care, the field has a long way to go to ensure that it’s accurate, safe and beneficial for patients and clinicians alike.

“It’s not ready for primetime by any stretch of the imagination yet,” Dr. Sara says. Studies in psychiatry, neurology, cardiology and other areas have shown an association between voice biomarkers and various conditions or diseases, but they haven’t shown how this relationship can be used to improve clinical outcomes, he says.

Such research is “not the same as saying, ‘How can we instrumentalize it in clinical practice, and how feasible is it? How effective is it in gauging an individual’s medical trajectory?’” he explains. “If it doesn’t provide any benefits in terms of how we manage them, then the question is: why would you do it?”

He says addressing those questions is “one of many next steps that we have to undertake on this” and that larger clinical trials are needed to answer them. “If it makes health care delivery cheaper or more efficient, or if it improves outcomes for patients, then that’s great,” he adds. “But I think we need to demonstrate that first with clinical trials, and that hasn’t been done.”

To address these issues and validate its software, Kintsugi is conducting clinical studies, including with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and the National Science Foundation has awarded Kintsugi multiple grants to ramp up its research. The company is also pursuing FDA “de novo” clearance and continuing to build its own dataset to improve its machine learning models.

(Data and insights from Kintsugi’s voice journaling app, as well as conversations with call centers or telehealth providers and clinical collaborations with various hospitals, all become part of an enormous dataset that feeds Kintsugi’s AI.) Seiilova-Olson says this self-generated, unfettered proprietary dataset is what sets Kintsugi apart in the AI health care space — where many technologies are reliant on outside data from electronic health records.

That collection of troves of data on individuals’ speech can be concerning — particularly in the mental health and wellness space, which is widely considered a regulatory Wild West. (These products and services are often not subject to the same laws and stringent standards that govern how licensed clinicians provide formal medical care to patients.)

But Kintsugi’s founders say that patient privacy is protected because what matters for its technology is not what people are saying, but how they are saying it. Patients are also asked for their consent to be recorded and care is not affected by their decision to opt in or opt out, according to the founders.

Kintsugi says it has served an estimated 34,000 patients. The company is currently working with a large health system with 90 hospitals and clinics across 22 states, and they are active in a care management call center that services roughly 20 million calls per year. It is also partnering with Pegasystems, which offers customer service tools for health care and other industries, to help payers and providers handle inbound calls.

Chang says other customers include Fortune 10 enterprise payers, pharmaceutical organizations and digital health applications focused on remote patient monitoring, but that she could not yet share their names. Kintsugi’s clinical partners include Children’s Hospital Colorado, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Florida, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London and SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital in Spain, Chang said.

Prentice Tom, Kintsugi’s chief medical officer, adds that it’s working with the University of Arkansas to explore how the tool can be used to possibly identify patients with suicidal ideation, or increased or severe suicide risk, as well as with Loma Linda University, to look at how the technology can be used to spot burnout amongst clinicians.

The team is also looking for ways to expand availability and uses for younger and elderly patients, as well as for maternal and postpartum populations. And beyond patients themselves, it’s perhaps nurses who are benefiting most from Kintsugi’s work, according to the founding team: having a triage tool that helps reduce administrative work or the time spent asking generic questions enables nurses to more seamlessly move patients in their journey.

But Tom, a Harvard-trained emergency medicine physician and former faculty member at Stanford University’s Department of Emergency Medicine, says Kintsugi is now doing far more than addressing infrastructure issues alone. It’s democratizing access to mental health care, Tom said, moving away from a physician-centric paradigm that caters more to people with significant enough depression that they require medical evaluation.

“This tool actually creates a view of mental health in terms of mental wellness,” Tom said, “where everyone has the opportunity to understand where they sit on the spectrum and that actually stratifies treatment options well beyond the current infrastructure.”

I’m a Senior Writer at Forbes covering the intersection of technology and society. Before joining Forbes, I spent three years as a tech reporter at Politico, where I covered

Source: Mental Health Startup Uses Voice ‘Biomarkers’ To Detect Signs Of Depression And Anxiety

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More contents:

Social Media Break Can Significantly Improve Mental Health

A social media break could significantly improve overall well-being and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to a new study from the University of Bath.

The researchers examined the mental health effects of stepping away from social media for one week. For some participants, the break freed up about nine hours that they would have normally spent on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

“Social media (SM) has revolutionized how we communicate with each other, allowing users to interact with friends and family and meet others based on shared interests by creating virtual public profiles,” wrote the study authors. “In the United Kingdom, the number of adults using SM has increased from 45 percent in 2011 to 71 percent in 2021.”

The researchers noted that previous studies have found negative relationships between social media use and various mental health indices. For example, a study of US adults showed that participants who used social media the most frequently had much greater odds of suffering from depression.

To investigate the benefits of a social media break, the researchers focused on people between the ages of 18 and 72 who used social media every day. The individuals were randomly assigned to either stop using social media platforms altogether for seven days or to continue their social media engagement as usual.

At the beginning of the study, the participants had reported spending an average of eight hours per week on social media. Those who took a break showed significant improvements in well-being, depression, and anxiety.

“Scrolling social media is so ubiquitous that many of us do it almost without thinking from the moment we wake up to when we close our eyes at night,” said lead researcher Dr. Jeff Lambert.

“We know that social media usage is huge and that there are increasing concerns about its mental health effects, so with this study, we wanted to see whether simply asking people to take a week’s break could yield mental health benefits.”

“Many of our participants reported positive effects from being off social media with improved mood and less anxiety overall. This suggests that even just a small break can have an impact.”

“Of course, social media is a part of life and for many people, it’s an indispensable part of who they are and how they interact with others. But if you are spending hours each week scrolling and you feel it is negatively impacting you, it could be worth cutting down on your usage to see if it helps.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

Source: Social media break can significantly improve mental health • Earth.com

.

Critics:

By: Zia Sherrell

Social media has associations with depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation, particularly among heavy users. A 2015 Common Sense survey found that teenagers may spend as much as 9 hours of each day online. Many of these individuals are themselves concerned that they spend too much time browsing social networks. This wave of concern suggests that social media could affect the mental health of its users.

The researchers behind a 2017 Canadian study confirmed this finding. They noted that students who use social media for more than 2 hours daily are considerably more likely to rate their mental health as fair or poor than occasional users. A 2019 studyTrusted Source tied social media use to disrupted and delayed sleep. Regular, high quality sleep is essential for well-being, and evidence shows that sleeping problems contribute to adverse mental health effects, such as depression and memory loss.

Aside from the adverse effects on sleep, social media may trigger mental health struggles by exposing individuals to cyberbullying. In a 2020 survey of more than 6,000 individuals aged 10–18 years, researchers found that about half of them had experienced cyberbullying. One of the downsides of social media platforms is that they give individuals the opportunity to start or spread harmful rumors and use abusive words that can leave people with lasting emotional scars.

Although social media may not play a role in each of these incidences, the time frame correlates with the growing use of these platforms. A 2021 study confirms this effect. The researchers reported that while social media use had a minimal impact on boys’ risk of suicide, girls who used social media for at least 2 hours each day from the age of 13 years had a higher clinical risk of suicide as adults. Furthermore, findings from a population-based study show a decline in mental health in the U.S., with a 37% increase in the likelihood of major depressive episodes among adolescents.

A 2019 studyTrusted Source suggested that teenagers who use social media for more than 3 hours daily are more likely to experience mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, aggression, and antisocial behavior.

More contents:

High-Functioning Anxiety Symptoms, Causes and Prevention


There is no recognized mental health diagnosis for high functioning anxiety. Rather, it has evolved as a catch-all word for persons who suffer from anxiety but identify as doing quite well in several aspects of their lives.

If you have high functioning anxiety, you’ve probably noticed that your anxiety pulls you ahead rather than paralyses you. On the surface, you appear to be a successful, well-organized, and calm Type A personality who excels at business and in life. The way you feel on the inside, on the other hand, may be extremely different.

Anxiety disorders affect around 19% of adults in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Some people may consider themselves to be “high functioning” but it’s difficult to tell how many suffer from this form of anxiety.

High-Functioning Anxiety

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Diseases (DSM-5) does not accept high-functioning anxiety as a diagnosis because it is not an anxiety disorder recognised by the DSM-5, which sets diagnostic criteria for mental disorders. As a result, there isn’t a lot of information or research on it. Instead, high-functioning anxiety is commonly used to describe someone who has anxiety but yet managing their everyday life quite effectively.

A person with high-functioning anxiety may appear well-dressed and accomplished on the surface, but on the inside, they may be worried, stressed, or have obsessive thoughts.

Because it is not a recognised illness, there has been little research into high-functioning anxiety and how it impacts people. People with high-functioning anxiety may exhibit less visible signs and symptoms, and some experts believe these symptoms frequently overlap with those of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Among the symptoms of GAD are:

  • For at least six months, there has been excessive concern or stress on most days.
  • Restlessness.
  • Concentration is difficult.
  • Being easily exhausted.
  • Irritability.
  • Muscle tenseness
  • Sleep issues.

High-functioning anxiety contains both positive and negative traits, so while some of the positive aspects may appear to be fantastic (such as being able to handle everyday duties successfully), the inner struggle the person may be feeling should not be overlooked. It could be for these reasons why someone does not seek help outcome proactive or suffers from anxiety in silence.

Positive Characteristics

The outcomes and triumphs that you and others notice demonstrate the potential benefits of high functioning anxiety. On the surface, you may appear to be a very successful person in both job and life.

This may be accurate objectively if you solely evaluate yourself based on your accomplishments.Characteristics of people with high functioning anxiety that are frequently regarded as beneficial include:

  • vivacious personality (happy, tells jokes, smiles, laughs).
  • On time (arrive early for appointments).
  • Proactiveness (plan ahead for all possibilities).
  • arranged (make lists or keep calendars).
  • High-achieving.
  • Detail-oriented.
  • Clean and tidy.
  • Active.
  • Helpful
  • Appearances to be calm and composed.
  • Loyal in relationships. Passionate.

Read more:

Herbs for anxiety

Does PMO cause anxiety ? (Research)

What are the causes of anxiety and depression?

Types of depression

Negative Characteristics

A struggle typically hides beneath the veil of accomplishment in the case of high functioning anxiety. The worry you feel about your accomplishment will inevitably surface.People don’t always realize that these behaviours are the result of anxiety, and they may mistake them for a part of who you are.

Despite being considered “high functioning,” you may face the following difficulties in your daily life.

  • “People pleaser” (afraid of driving people away, fear of being a bad friend, spouse, and employee, fear of letting others down).
  • A lot of talking, uneasy “chatter”
  • Nervous tendencies (playing with your hair, cracking knuckles, biting your lip).
  • Repetitive tasks must be completed (counting stairs or rocking back and forth).
  • Overthinking.
  • Time wastage (arriving too early for appointments).
  • Reassurance is required (asking for directions multiple times or checking on others frequently).
  • Procrastination is followed by extended periods of crunch-time work.

 How Is “High Functioning” Defined?

Although there is limited study on high functioning anxiety, we do know that there is an optimal degree of anxiety (not too low or too high) that stimulates performance (Source). According to this theory, if you have a modest to moderate amount of anxiety, your ability to function at a higher level may be enhanced (as opposed to severe anxiety).People with anxiety may perform better at work and in life if they have a higher IQ. According to a 2005 study, financial managers with high levels of anxiety made the greatest money managers—as long as they also had a high IQ.

Read more:

Does PMO cause anxiety ? (Research)

Anxiety rings (Does it help Reduce Anxiety?)

Anxiety tattoos (20 Tattoos That will Give You Strength and Help Your Anxiety)

Melatonin for anxiety (Does it really helps ?)

Famous People Who Suffer From High Functioning Anxiety

When attempting to promote awareness of a social issue such as mental illness, using well-known or famous persons as examples can be beneficial.Stars like Barbra Streisand and Donny Osmond, as well as athletes like Zack Greinke and Ricky Williams, have all spoken openly about their struggles with high functioning anxiety.Scott Stossel, The Atlantic’s national editor, has written extensively on his experiences with anxiety in the context of his accomplishments.

Daily Suggestions Tips

Whether you’ve already sought professional therapy or are still in the process, here are some self-help strategies for anxiety reduction.

  • Make a commitment to working on your mental health for 10 minutes per day.
  • Consider lifestyle adjustments such as reducing caffeine, eating a nutritious diet, and getting regular exercise before doing any cognitive work.
  • Sleep hygiene is also crucial, such as going to bed at the same time every night and not staying in bed if your mind is racing.
  • Examine a few of your mental habits
  • Anxiety, for example, involves a lot of negative predictions .
  • When you notice a negative idea, attempt to counter it with something more practical or useful.
  • Find coping solutions for nervous habits such as lip biting or nail chewing.
  • Deep breathing or progressive muscular relaxation can assist you reduce your tension.
  • Get up and do something else till you’re weary.

Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants, are also available for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Anxiety can also be treated with other drugs such as benzodiazepines, buspirone, and beta-blockers.

If you believe you may require treatment, consult with your doctor to determine which treatment option is best for you.Depression can be cause by malnutrition, heredity, hormones, seasons, stress, illness, neurotransmitter malfunction. Neutron transmitter defficieny or malfunction is commonly associated with depression.Serotonin levels are usually low in persons with depression. Serotonin is the brain chemical which makes us feel happy that is why it is called the “feel good” neurotransmitter.

Read more:

Anxiety and depression

Acrophobia (Fear of Heights) – Causes & How to deal with it

Panic Attacks – How to Prevent it (2022)

Overcoming Depression

Herbs for anxiety

Studies also suggest that anxious and depressed individuals have over excited nerve cells or nerve cells that fires too much.Over excited nerve cells result from low GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid) activity. The low levels of neurotransmitter could be attributed to malnutrition, disease and genetics.In malnutrition, the body is not receiving enough vitamins,  minerals and amino acids to support brain function. Vitamin-B is very important in the normal function of the brain and the nervous system.

Heredity significantly plays a role in depression. Your DNA predetermines your susceptibility for this disease. If you have a close relative that has a history of depression, then it is also likely that you or a close relative of yours could have depression.Hormonal imbalance is another cause of depression. In females, hormonal balance is the ratio of progesterone and estrogen. High levels of estrogen or low levels of progesterone is linked to depression.

B

Source: High-Functioning Anxiety Symptoms, Causes and Prevention.

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Symptoms of Dementia and Early Warning Signs

From age 50 on, it’s not unusual to have occasional trouble finding the right word or remembering where you put things.

Dementia Symptoms at a Glance

  • Difficulty with everyday tasks
  • Repetition
  • Communication problems
  • Getting lost
  • Personality changes
  • Confusion about time and place
  • Troubling behavior

But persistent difficulty with memory, cognition and ability to perform everyday tasks might be signs that something more serious is happening to a loved one’s brain.

Dementia isn’t actually a disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s a catch-all term for changes in the brain that cause a loss of functioning that interferes with daily life. Dementia can diminish focus, the ability to pay attention, language skills, problem-solving and visual perception. It also can make it difficult for a person to control his or her emotions and lead to personality changes.

Roughly 6.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s dementia, according to the “2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” report from the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia, accounting for 60 percent to 70 percent of cases, but a range of brain illnesses can lead to the condition (see sidebar, “Diseases that cause dementia”).

Diseases that cause dementia

These conditions are the leading causes of dementia. Many patients have mixed dementia, a combination of two or more types, such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is characterized by amyloid plaques and tangled fibers in the brain and by a loss of connections between nerve cells. Damage initially appears in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in memory formation, and gradually spreads.

Vascular dementia. The second most common type of dementia results from damage to the vessels that supply blood to the brain. It tends to affect focus, organization, problem-solving and speed of thinking more noticeably than memory.

Lewy body dementia. Abnormal protein deposits in the brain, called Lewy bodies, affect brain chemistry and lead to problems with behavior, mood, movement and thinking.

Frontotemporal disorders. Degenerative damage to the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes is the most common cause of dementia in people age 65 and younger. Symptoms might include apathy; difficulty communicating, walking or working; emotional changes; and impulsive or inappropriate behaviors.

A loved one showing symptoms of dementia needs to see a medical expert who can conduct tests and come up with a diagnosis. If a loved one has dementia, you’ll want to plan how you will manage that care, especially as the condition progresses.

But it’s also important to rule out other medical conditions with dementia-like symptoms that may disappear with treatment such as infections and side effects of medications.

Dementia symptoms to watch for

Here are some of the warning signs identified by dementia experts and mental health organizations:

• Difficulty with everyday tasks. Everyone makes mistakes, but people with dementia may find it increasingly difficult to do things like keep track of monthly bills or follow a recipe while cooking, the Alzheimer’s Association says. They also may find it hard to concentrate on tasks, take much longer to do them or have trouble finishing them.

• Repetition. Asking a question over and over or telling the same story about a recent event multiple times are common indicators of mild or moderate Alzheimer’s, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

• Communication problems. Observe if a loved one has trouble joining in conversations or following along with them, stops abruptly in the middle of a thought or struggles to think of words or the name of objects.

• Getting lost. People with dementia may have difficulty with visual and spatial abilities. That can manifest itself in problems like getting lost while driving, according to the Mayo Clinic.

• Personality changes. A loved one who begins acting unusually anxious, confused, fearful or suspicious; becomes upset easily; or loses interest in activities and seems depressed is cause for concern.

• Confusion about time and place. Loved ones who forget where they are or can’t remember how they got there should raise alarms. Another worrisome sign is disorientation about time — for example, routinely forgetting what day of the week it is, says Jason Karlawish, M.D., a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and co-director of the Penn Memory Center.
• Troubling behavior. If your family member seems to have increasingly poor judgment when handling money or neglects grooming and cleanliness, pay attention.

Some people who experience memory loss or have difficulty with attention, decision-making language or reasoning may have a condition known as mild cognitive impairment. The condition causes a noticeable decline, but the changes are less severe than with dementia and a person can still perform normal daily activities, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

People with mild cognitive impairment are at an increased risk of developing dementia.

Signs of dementia? Where to find help

When your loved one is displaying troubling symptoms, a trip to a primary care physician is often the first step. But to get a definitive diagnosis, you’ll need to see a specialist such as a neurologist, geriatrician or geriatric psychiatrist.

If you can’t find one, the National Institute on Aging recommends contacting the neurology department of a nearby medical school. Some hospitals also have clinics that focus on dementia.

Ailments can mimic dementia

Any number of treatable conditions can cause dementia-like symptoms. Some of the most common:

• Alcohol abuse
• Anxiety, depression or stress
• Blood clots, brain infections or tumors
• Delirium
• Head injuries
• Kidney, liver or thyroid problems
• Side effects of medication
• Vitamin deficiencies

Source: National Institute on Aging

Specialists will want to know about the patient’s personal and family medical history. A close relative or relatives having had Alzheimer’s is a major risk factor.

Recent research suggests that a prevalence among even members of your extended family can increase your dementia risk. Doctors also will conduct physical and neurological exams to rule out other treatable causes for dementia symptoms.

Some of the methods that doctors use to diagnose dementia:

• Cognitive and neuropsychological tests assess language and math skills, memory, problem-solving and other types of mental functioning.

• Lab tests of blood and other fluids, including checking levels of various chemicals, hormones and vitamins, can help rule out nondementia causes for the symptoms.

• Brain scans such as CT, MRI or PET imaging can spot changes in brain structure and function. These tests also can identify strokes, tumors and other problems that can cause dementia.

• Psychiatric evaluation can determine whether a mental health condition is causing or affecting the symptoms.

• Genetic tests are important, especially if someone is showing symptoms before age 60. The early onset form of Alzheimer’s is strongly linked to a person’s genes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Talk with a genetic counselor before and after getting tested.

Editor’s note: This article was published on October 22, 2019. It has been updated with more recent information.

By: Patrick J. Kiger

Patrick J. Kiger is a contributing writer for AARP. He has written for a wide variety of publications, including the Los Angeles Times Magazine, GQ and Mother Jones, as well as the websites of the Discovery Channel and National Geographic.​​

Source: Symptoms of Dementia and Early Warning Signs

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Critics:

Having trouble with memory can be an early symptom of dementia. The changes are often subtle and tend to involve short-term memory. A person with dementia may be able to remember events that took place years ago, but not what they had for breakfast.

Another early symptom of dementia is difficulty with communicating thoughts. A person with dementia may have a hard time explaining something or finding the right words to express themselves. They may also stop in the middle of a sentence and not know how to continue.

Having a conversation with a person who has dementia can be challenging, and it may take longer than usual for them to express their thoughts or feelings.

A change in mood is also common with dementia. If you have dementia, it may not be easy to recognize this in yourself, but you may notice this change in someone else. Depression, for instance, is common in the early stages of dementia.

Someone who has dementia may also seem more fearful or anxious than they were before. They could get easily upset if their usual daily routine is changed, or if they find themselves in unfamiliar situations.

Apathy, or listlessness, is a common sign in early dementia. A person with dementia may lose interest in hobbies or activities that they used to enjoy doing. They may not want to go out anymore or have fun.They may also lose interest in spending time with friends and family, and they may seem emotionally flat.

Someone in the early stages of dementia may often become confused. They may have trouble remembering faces, knowing what day or month it is, or figuring out where they are. Confusion can occur for a number of reasons and apply to different situations. For example, they may misplace their car keys, forget what comes next in the day, or have difficulty remembering someone they recently met.

But dementia is not one single condition. It’s essentially an umbrella term that covers a wide range of cognitive disorders. This includes Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association…

More contents:

Caregiving for dementia: Helping your loved one stay connected

Healthy lifestyle, not supplements, prevent dementia

Staying Sharp: Take control of your brain health

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Using Digital To Address The Mental Health ‘Silent Epidemic’

Digital tools and platforms are a natural fit for overcoming the top barriers to getting mental healthcare: accessibility, cost and social stigma, says Emily Thayer, a Senior Consultant within Cognizant Consulting’s Healthcare Practice.

Untreated mental health conditions have long been a top healthcare concern. In 2019, fewer than half of Americans with a diagnosed mental illness received treatment for that condition, according to the US National Institute of Mental Health.

Not only is untreated mental illness detrimental to patients’ health — it’s also a strain on national healthcare costs. In fact, mental health disorders cost the US economy an estimated $4.6 billion per year in unnecessary ER visits and $300 billion in lost workplace productivity, making mental health disorders among the most costly untreated conditions in the US.

The pandemic has only accelerated the need for care — according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, over 40% of US adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in January 2021, compared with 11% in the first six months of 2019. Given the well-documented therapist shortages that have resulted, the concern of connecting patients with care has only grown more acute.

It’s no wonder, then, that interest and investment are growing in digitally oriented mental healthcare, from platforms that match therapists with patients, to chatbots, to online cognitive behavioral therapy tools. Although emerging digital solutions are nascent and will inevitably encounter friction, virtual remedies show great promise in lowering the barriers that both practitioners and patients face.

Consider how digital tools can address the top three factors that have historically kept patients from seeking mental health care: accessibility, cost and social stigma.

Improving accessibility to mental health treatment

As of May 2021, over 125 million Americans live in a behavioral or mental health professional shortage area. This gap will continue to widen as the pandemic exacerbates the therapist shortage.

To expand accessibility to behavioral health services, companies like Quartet and Talkspace are using telehealth platforms to connect patients and therapists. By leveraging clinical algorithms, these platforms identify available therapists based on the patient’s symptoms, state of residence (due to cross-state licensing restrictions), insurance carrier, preferred mode of communication (synchronous video or audio and asynchronous text messaging) and desired appointment cadence.

In other words, if you have a connected device, you can receive on-demand care for your behavioral health condition. Digital accessibility also addresses physician shortages and burnout on a national scale.

As these entities are still relatively new to the market, challenges and questions remain, such as the fundamental disconnect between virtual treatment and physician intervention in a clinical setting. As patient adoption grows, enough accurate data will be generated to prompt when physician intervention is necessary.

Additionally, these telehealth platforms are more geared toward mild cases, as these services do not replace the necessary stages of the care continuum that may be needed for more serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Lowering behavioral healthcare costs

An estimated 47% of US adults with an untreated behavioral or mental health illness do not seek treatment due to high costs.

Many entities in the private and public sectors are turning to virtual services to help patients better afford behavioral and mental health services. For instance, traditional in-person therapy ranges from $64 to $250 per hour, depending on patient insurance, whereas digital solutions can cost under $32 per hour.

Accordingly, many workplaces are incorporating digital solutions into their employee-sponsored health plans through health platforms like Ginger, which offers 24×7 access to behavioral health coaches via asynchronous texting for low-acuity conditions like anxiety and depression.

Recent moves by the federal government further bolster the effort to make behavioral healthcare affordable. In addition to the US Department of Health and Human Services announcing an additional $3 billion in funding to address pandemic-related behavioral and mental health issues, the Biden administration has signaled commitment to expanding access to telehealth services for underserved communities. Such efforts will need to be combined with further work in the private sector to ensure mental healthcare affordability through virtual means.

Overcoming negative social stigma

Perceived social stigma is an additional barrier for many people seeking mental health treatment. In a study of patients with schizophrenia, 86% of respondents reported concealing their illness due to fears of prejudice or discrimination.

To circumvent these challenges, some mental health providers have embraced artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots and online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tools. Although chatting with a bot may seem counterintuitive to the “high-touch” nature of the healthcare industry, the anonymity of this approach can ease patient anxiety about opening up to another potentially judgmental human.

In a randomized control trial with a conversational agent that delivers CBT treatment, patients reported a 22% reduction in depression and anxiety within the first two weeks. This study shows promise for the effectiveness of chatbot-based therapy, particularly for younger generations, many of whom already share many intimate details of their lives on digital forums and hence have a higher level of acceptance of these tools. Older generations may view the adoption of this new behavioral care model with more incredulity and hesitancy.

A virtual future for behavioral healthcare

It is clear that the virtual care industry is poised for future growth, as there is a clear correlation between our understanding of behavioral healthcare challenges and the evolution of treatment modalities to bridge those gaps.

While digital services may not be a cure-all remedy for behavioral health, they certainly offer a promising long-term solution to one of the country’s most prominent and costly diseases.

To learn more, visit our Healthcare solutions section or contact us.

Emily Thayer is a Senior Consultant within Cognizant Consulting’s Healthcare Practice, who specializes in driving digital transformation. Emily has a proven track record in both the private and public sectors, most notably in health plan strategy and operations, business development and project management. Emily earned her bachelor’s degree in business management and psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Oxford, and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. She can be reached at Emily.Thayer@cognizant.com

Source: Using Digital To Address The Mental Health ‘Silent Epidemic’

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