Before you Download: Tips for Using a Recovery App

By: Bernadette Pivarunas

Date: June 10, 2015

In today’s day and age, chances are, you own a smartphone. We are surrounded by them, and use them for everything from checking our email to sharing pictures of our vacations on social media. But did you know that smartphones are also connecting individuals to tools that support eating disorder recovery? Dozens of eating disorder specific, mobile applications (“apps”) are available. Typically, these apps provide information, facilitate self-assessment and/or self-monitoring, and provide advice or suggestions.

A recent review of eating disorder specific apps found that apps most often provide advice.1 However, some of the advice provided on apps can be more harmful than beneficial and it can even potentially be dangerous. Therefore, it is critical to scrutinize any potential app(s) before you decide to give it a try.

Consider the following before you decide to download:

  • Does the app connect me with other individuals? For some, connection with others can facilitate social support. For others, connection may facilitate competitiveness and the intensification of disordered eating behaviors.
  • Does the app offer sound information and advice? To be safe, it’s a good idea to have someone you trust, perhaps a mental health therapist or healthcare provider, review the app’s content for accuracy.
  • Can the app communicate with my therapist? Some apps allow for the transfer of data between individuals and their clinical providers. In these cases, the app can be used to support and supplement the progress made in individual and/or group therapy.
  • Finally, what are your intentions? Be honest with yourself. It makes good sense to inform family members, close friends, and especially your healthcare providers if you decide to start using a recovery app. And remember, even the best recovery app cannot replace the support of a a healthcare professional.

Happy app-ing!

1Fairburn, C. G., & Rothwell, E. R. (2015). Apps and eating disorders: A systematic clinical appraisal. International Journal of Eating Disorders. Advanced online publication. doi: 10.1002/eat.22398