Eating disorders are devastating mental illnesses that affect millions of people in the United States. Even with a support system, recovering from an eating disorder requires a lot of accountability and motivation from the patients themselves. Anchor Wellness a health tracking app made designed specifically for individuals battling eating disorders. The app allows users to track their emotional and physical health, presenting their health in a holistic view, giving new perspective to their health habits, providing encouragement and reassurance, and facilitating their recovery.
Through research and speaking with a psychologist, I tried to narrow down how a health tracking app could be the most helpful without trying to replace or seeming to replace the need for professional help from doctors and psychologists. I intended for the app to be a complement to professional treatment, helping individuals to manage their wellness from day to day and between appointments. I worked to understand the users' frame of mind when they initial commit to recovery.
While others may have noticed the individual exhibiting signs of an eating disorder, the individual him or herself is unaware or in denial. The individual may be resistant, angry, or even hostile when approached by others. The individual is likely unwilling to change their behavior as it is currently being used to control or avoid unpleasant emotions.
The individual becomes aware of the problem and has started to consider the positive benefits of adopting healthier behavior. However, the individual will likely feel confused, his or her attitude fluctuating between wanting to change their behavior and wanting to continue his or her current behavior.
The individual has decided that they want to change their behavior and begins preparing for the changes that must happen in order for recovery. At this stage, most patients seek (and are recommended to seek) the help of a doctor, therapist, clinician, or other specialist of eating disorders.
Knowing that users may be resistant to consistently tracking their health, it was important that the recording features be quick, simple, and engaging. Recording health data needed to be meaningful moments of self-reflection without being intrusive to daily life or frustrating to complete. Interactions with the app in general needed to be enjoyable and personable, encouraging the user to trust the app and continuing working hard towards recovery.
I wanted to convey a tone of relaxation and comfort, providing a space that would lend itself to self-reflection, meditation, and positivity. The actual environment designs themselves needed to be calm and serene, yet reward the viewer with detail. Furthermore, the tone of the app needed to be encouraging, approachable, and aspirational to be effective.
Empathy for the user is extremely important when designing for people with mental illness. This, of course, is made difficult by the fact that each individual has a unique relationship with their illness and reacts to obstacles differently. It was challenging to find a balance between what an individual battling an eating disorder would want from an assisting app and what the individual would truly need from an assisting app but not necessarily want. I worked to create a supportive language throughout and to guide the user focus towards holistic health. While app was intended to be a strong guide, I tried to also leave room to accomodate for the users varying privacy needs, feelings towards recovery, and commitment levels.