The measurement problem

February 21, 2019

The measurement problem

Understanding

In many aspects of our health and well-being, measurement is at the center of understanding where you’re currently at in relation to where you want to get to, as well as tracking the journey of improvement you need to go on to get there.

You see this in contexts such as weight management, where objective measures over time such as weighing yourself, or using Body Mass Index (BMI) tests, give you a clear picture of understanding whether the stuff you’re doing is actually working or not. This is the same with other fitness goals - seeing how long a specific run takes, how many laps you can do in the pool - as well as in areas such as diabetes (blood-sugar), asthma (spirometry) and even just taking your temperature. With emotional health and the mind however, there’s no equivalent solution that we can easily do on our own that gives us a clear picture of our emotional state over time.

Questions

Questionnaire style measures do exist to help support practitioners in making a diagnosis of mood disorders - most commonly the PHQ-9 (screens for severity of depression) and the GAD-7 (screens for severity of anxiety disorders).

These questionnaires ask how often over the past two weeks you’ve felt certain things, such as feeling lost and hopeless. One of the main challenges with these tests is that it can be tough to accurately recall how you’ve been feeling over an extended period of time . If you’ve ever had quite severe mental health issues, you probably know how hard it is to remember how you were feeling two weeks ago on Tuesday.

Tracking

For the section of the population that face mild to moderate emotional health issues and do not meet the clinical thresholds required to be diagnosed with a mood disorder, it’s extremely tough to measure and understand where you’re emotional health sits in relation to where it was a month ago, and where you want it to be.

Manual options such as mood-tracking - of which there are countless physical solutions and smartphone apps  - do exist and can provide substantial benefit if used properly. The challenge here is that manual mood tracking is a very difficult behavior for most of us to stay on top of.

Progress

Without some form of measuring and understanding your emotional health over time, things are just so much harder when you’re going through tough times.

Improving your emotional health does not have a one size fits all solution, however a lot of treatment and support tends to act in this vain. Without being able to easily compare yourself against average results of a treatment path, it’s tough to know whether the path is working as intended, for you as an individual. In this case, it’s very hard to answer questions such as: Is therapy working? If not, is it that the therapist is not right for me? Or maybe it’s the type of therapy that’s not right? How about my new medication, is that working as it’s supposed to?

This is a big problem, and it’s particularly bad when you’re in your toughest moments and it feels like all the chips are down. In these moments the system should be simple and easy to help pick you up and guide you in the right direction. Unfortunately that’s not the case today.

We’re fixing this. Sign up to see how.

Amol Avasare, Co-Founder and CEO

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