A headset and chatbot app is helping to reduce depression

By Leila Hawkins
Flow is a new drug-free treatment for depression...

A new type of treatment for depression that doesn't involve conventional medication is having great results amongst patients. Flow is entirely-drug free, and works by stimulating the area of the brain associated with depression via a headset. 

Images taken of the brain of depressed patients show that depression is associated with lowered activity in the front of the brain, called the DLPFC. When activity here is unbalanced, it can lead to appetite changes, sleep disturbance and low mood, all common symptoms of depression. 

The Flow headset administers a type of current called transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) to this area, restoring brain activity and reducing these symptoms. It can be worn at home, at any time that's convenient. 

Additionally while wearing the headset patients interact with the Flow app, which has a chatbot therapist providing personalised behavioural therapy in areas proven to reduce symptoms of depression, including nutrition, exercise and sleep. 

Trials have revealed that 81 per cent of patients feel better after using Flow for three weeks. Additionally 32 per cent found their anxiety reduced, and 29 per cent said they had a reduction in suicidal thoughts. The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Journal of Psychiatry have shown tDCS to have a similar impact to antidepressants, but with fewer and less-severe side effects.

Daniel Mansson, clinical psychologist and co-founder of Flow, explained: “COVID is changing how depression is managed, and driving a meaningful increase in demand for effective, at-home treatments that are safe, have minimal side effects and do not require a prescription. 

“The results in this user analysis are comparable to antidepressants, and demonstrate the significant benefits of using Flow to self-manage depression. They add to the growing body of medical evidence that supports the use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) for the treatment of depression - and gives further impetus for the NHS to add Flow as one of their first lines of treatment.”

Flow is the first treatment of this kind to be medically approved in the EU and the UK. It is currently offered at The Chelsea Psychology Clinic in London; the headset can also be bought online, while the app is free to download on App Store and Google Play. 


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