A Web-Based Positive Psychology App for Patients With Bipolar Disorder: Development Study

Bart Geerling*, Saskia M. Kelders, Anja W.M.M. Stevens, Ralph W. Kupka, Ernst T. Bohlmeijer

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Background: Patients with bipolar disorder (BD) report lower quality of life and lower levels of well-being than the general population. Despite the growing availability of psychotherapeutic and self-management interventions, important unmet needs remain. These unmet needs are closely linked to positive psychology domains. Although a growing number of studies have evaluated the impact of positive psychology interventions (PPIs) on patients with severe mental illness in general, only few have addressed the application of positive psychology for BD. Objective: This study aimed to gain insight into the opinions of patients with BD and health care professionals about (web-based) PPIs for BD and to develop and pilot-test an app containing PPIs specifically designed for patients with BD. Methods: The study was conducted in accordance with the Center for eHealth and Disease Management road map principles and incorporated cocreation and designing for implementation. Data were collected using focus group discussions, questionnaires, rapid prototyping, and web-based feedback on a prototype from the participants. In total, 3 focus groups were conducted with 62% (8/13) of patients with BD and 38% (5/13) of professionals. The collected data were used to develop a smartphone app containing short PPIs. The content was based on PPIs for which a solid base of evidence is available. Finally, a pilot test was conducted to test the app. Results: Focus groups revealed that PPIs as part of the current BD treatment can potentially meet the following needs: offering hope, increasing self-esteem, expressing feelings, acceptance, and preventing social isolation. Some patients expressed concern that PPIs may provoke a manic or hypomanic episode by increasing positive affect. The pilot of the app showed that the PPIs are moderately to highly valued by the participants. There were no adverse effects such as increase in manic or hypomanic symptoms. Conclusions: With the systematic use of user involvement (patients and professionals) in all steps of the development process, we were able to create an app that can potentially fulfill some of the current unmet needs in the treatment of BD. We reached consensus among consumers and professionals about the potential benefits of PPIs to address the unmet needs of patients with BD. The use of PPI for BD is intriguing and can be usefully explored in further studies. We emphasize that more evaluation studies (quantitative and qualitative) that are focused on the effect of PPIs in the treatment of BD should be conducted. In addition, to establish the working mechanisms in BD, explorative, qualitative, designed studies are required to reveal whether PPIs can address unmet needs in BD.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere39476
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Volume6
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2022

Keywords

  • acceptance
  • bipolar
  • bipolar disorder
  • cocreation
  • intervention
  • manic
  • manic episode
  • mental illness
  • mHealth
  • mobile health
  • mobile phone
  • pilot
  • positive
  • positive psychology
  • psychology
  • quality of life
  • self-esteem
  • self-help
  • social isolation
  • web-based

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