New mobile game Flowy wants to stop panic attacks in their tracks

A new mobile game from Playlab London has been designed to help people living with anxiety and panic attacks. Flowy is a series of puzzle games which not only distract the mind but deliver training to breathe more calmly, thus reducing stress.

The player touches the screen while inhaling and removes touch while exhaling, which controls the action on screen. The aim is to reduce the symptoms of a panic attack within the space of six minutes, and its makers recommend people play for at least three minutes every day.

Anxiety is thought to affect as many as one in six adults, but it is also known to be under-reported and under-diagnosed, meaning the true number could be much higher. While Flowy can’t replace medical treatment, breathing retraining can be a helpful accompaniment to therapy and medication. Clinical tests from the Wolfson Institute for Preventive Medicine at Queen Mary University showed it measurably decreased panic, anxiety, and hyperventilation, and users who tested Flowy reported a reduction in negative thoughts and an improvement in quality of life.

The founding director of Playlab London, Simon Fox, was inspired to create the game after breathing exercises prescribed by his therapist helped him to cope with panic attacks, which had made him feel like he couldn’t breathe. ‘When I experienced my first panic attack I thought I was dying,’ he says. Next year, the company plans to partner with the NHS and also to make it possible for people’s Flowy results to be integrated with health apps.

It’s been in development for a year, thanks to support from Nominet Trust, which invests in socially conscious tech projects. A full version will be released in early 2015 and will feature a more extensive gameplay element, but the free beta’s out today for Android and later this week for iOS. If you have a tendency to get really stressed at this time of year (relatives, anyone?), it could be well worth having in your pocket come Christmas.

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Diane Shipley