In Bipolar Disorder For Dummies, I point out that a key self-help strategy for living well with bipolar disorder is to monitor your moods, and I provide a Mood/Sleep Chart to facilitate the process. I also point out that those who prefer to track their moods using a digital device can find several online mood-tracking tools, including the following:
- DBSA Wellness Tracker
- eMoods Bipolar Mood Tracker
- T2 Mood Tracker
Another app that some younger kids have pointed me to is Dailyio, which is very simple. It uses emojis to represent moods. Dailyio offers a free version and one with more personalization options for $5.99. Dailyio is a good starting point for kids or for adults who are less familiar with technology.
Recently, a new online mood monitoring/management tool popped up on my radar that offers more than the standard mood-tracking capability. It is called KIOS Bipolar Mood Navigator. You access the tool using any standard web browser on a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer or on your smart phone. (It’s not an “app” per se, but once it is running in your browser you may not know the difference. More about that later.)
The opening screen, shown below, gives you quick access to the application’s four main features: Assess, Advice, My Data, and Journal.
When you choose Assess, KIOS presents you with a series of eight simple questions, each of which you answer by tapping a gradient on a scale of one to seven. For example, one of the questions is “Have you felt depressed, sad, or down?” and the answer choices range from “Not at all” to “Severely.”
After you answer the eight questions, KIOS asks you to enter any recent medication changes and then instructs you to choose the positive behaviors you have practiced since your last assessment.
KIOS recommends that you take this assessment at least three times a week. You can adjust your account settings to have KIOS notify you via email when the time has come for a reassessment.
Based on your answers, KIOS conducts its assessment and presents the Advice screen. The initial assessment merely presents your KIOS Score along with additional information about how to use the application. It does not provide specific advice. You can expect to receive specific advice after the next assessment and more and better advice the longer you use KIOS.
Over time, KIOS identifies any changes that may indicate a shift toward depression or mania or back to your baseline. When KIOS identifies a warning sign, it provides specific advice to get back on track. On the other hand, when KIOS identifies a positive shift toward a healthier, more balanced mood state, it lets you know that, too. You can think of KIOS as your personal bipolar coach, warning you when your moods are wandering off track and cheering you on as you progress toward a healthier state of mind.
At any time, you can select My Data in the menu bar to access various charts, including Today’s Results, My Progress, KIOS Factors, and Symptoms. These charts provide a visual representation of the data, which is easier to grasp, especially when checking your long-term progress.
One of the options on the My Data screen is Download Report. When you select this option, KIOS generates a report in PDF format that you can send to your doctor or therapist or print to take to your next appointment. Even better, with your permission, your doctor or therapist can download reports between visits to remotely monitor any mood changes.
KIOS also features a journal, where you can record your own observations, including how you feel, stressors or triggers, specific concerns you have, or what you have found helpful for maintaining balance.
Where to Get KIOS
To try KIOS free for 30 days, visit kiosbipolar.com and click Sign Up Now! KIOS is not a smart phone app, so you will not find it on iTunes or in the Google Play Store. However, you can open it in any web browser, and you can create an icon on your smartphone’s home screen for quick access to KIOS. (See the KIOS FAQ at kiosbipolar.com/faq for details.)
If you decide to continue using KIOS past the 30-day free trial period, the cost is $29/month or $319/year ($26.58/month). However, your provider (doctor, insurance company, Medicaid clinic, etc.) may offer the tool for free or for a reduced cost. The fee structure for providers will differ substantially, and because the tool can improve outcomes and may save the provider money, they may offer it to their customers for free.
Although KIOS is no substitute for medical treatment, professional therapy, a support network, or having a trusted friend or relative watching your back, one of its key benefits is that it enables you to answer questions about how you are feeling honestly and obtain objective feedback without feeling judged or pressured in any way. In addition, if you choose to share the data with your doctor or therapist, it can provide valuable guidance for discussing and evaluating treatment options.
I like KIOS and will recommend it to patients, especially those who want and are able to use a more substantial online mood management tool. I think there are a sub-type of people who will want to/be able to use KIOS given the complexity and detail (which are both good things), but when very depressed, people may struggle to use something that takes a lot of mental and physical resources.