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I spent 2 weeks texting a bot about my anxiety — and found it to be surprisingly helpful



Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and it can kill. Yet scientists know surprisingly little about why it happens and how best to treat it. 

We do know that talking seems to help — especially under the guidance of a licensed mental health professional. But therapy is expensive, inconvenient, and often hard to approach. A recent estimate suggests that of the roughly one in five Americans who have a mental illness, close to two-thirds have gone at least a year without treatment.

Several Silicon Valley-style approaches to the problem have emerged: There are apps that replace the traditional psychiatry office with texting, and chat rooms where you can discuss your problems anonymously online.

The newest of these tech-based treatments is Woebot, an artificially intelligent chatbot (and recently launched app) that uses the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT — one of the most heavily researched clinical approaches to treating depression.

I spent two weeks using the tool. Here's how it went.

SEE ALSO: A Stanford researcher is pioneering a dramatic shift in how we treat depression — and you can try her new tool right now

The first message appeared around 6 p.m., while I was on the bus. I cupped a hand around my phone and stole a furtive glance at the gray bubble on the screen.

Woebot, which is designed to help people cope with feelings of depression and anxiety, launched as a stand-alone iOS app earlier this month.

Trying it out was my latest jaunt into the new and mostly uncharted territory of digital mental-health care.

Alison Darcy, a clinical psychologist at Stanford University, created Woebot based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, which encourages people to examine how they react to challenging situations.

Woebot isn't a replacement for an in-person therapist, Darcy says, nor will it help you find one.

Instead, the tool is part of a widening array of approaches to mental health. It's fundamentally different from any other form of therapy.

In one of my first interactions with Woebot, I told it about a time I had felt nervous about not being good or smart enough.

Woebot pointed out that I was engaging in a common practice called distorted thinking.

Then it had me re-write the thought in terms that would better reflect reality. In reality, I felt "not good enough" because I was anxious about a presentation I was giving the next day.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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