quirk

is an open source mobile cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) app for iOS. If you're interested, check out Quirk's changelog for new announcements.


What's CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an effective, evidence backed, treatment for a number of mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety. It's often one of the first treatments attempted if you see a psychiatrist or therapist.

Quirk is a companion app for one of the most common formats of CBT. You may have heard of this referred to as "the three column technique" or "catch it, check it, change it."

Your thoughts aren't your thoughts

CBT asks you to recognize that your thoughts are often causing your moods, not the other way around. Your brain is really good at making you feel things if you think them.

Often, we find ourselves thinking "automatic negative thoughts," that lead us to ruminate and fume on something that isn't super logical. For example, take the thought:

Quirk is dumb and no one would ever use it. If people don't use it, that means I'm a bad dev.

Does that thought seem right? It's a real thought I had when making Quirk.

Logically, the thought doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But often, we're really good at convincing ourselves of something in the moment. We might start thinking something like this and go down the rabbit hole of self-destructive behavior.

Step 1: Record that Thought

First, let's just write that thought down. It's a lot easier to recognize the logical errors in a thought when you have to put it into words.

screenshot of recording thought in quirk

Step 2: Find the Distortions

Quirk gives you a checklist of potential ways your brain is distorting your thoughts. These distortions are the same ones popularized in Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, the first book to popularize CBT.

screenshot of selecting a distortion in quirk

Although there's a lot of things wrong with the original thought, I picked two main ones in the moment: Catastrophizing and Should Statements.

Catastrophizing

Does it make sense that no one would use it? Probably not. I use it! Many people I know use it; I made it for them. The idea that a public release would go so poorly that even I don't use it is ludicrous.

Sometimes when you go through this exercise, you might find yourself not believing your own selections. For example, you may think something like this:

Of course I will use quirk, but I would have failed if Quirk didn't help lots of people! Surely I can't stand being the only person using Quirk.

We can fight back a little more here. The easiest rebuttal is that I've been using Quirk and it's various prototypes for several months now. While I have a few folks I've shared it with, there's been many iterations where I was the only user.

And everything was fine! Making something for yourself is fine; no one else will ever be able to understand yourself better!

Should Statements

A should statement is when you believe a person, event, or scenario "should" happen one way. Should statements are a good sign that you're tying your own mood to an unreasonable expectation of an external force.

In this case, there's no reason Quirk should be used by lots of folks. Most apps aren't widely used and there's already a number of fine apps in the marketplace. (Though Quirk is cheaper and a better, more focused product in my opinion.)

Plus, if Quirk didn't have plenty of users, it could be a sign of fewer mental health problems in the general public.

Step 3: Challenging

With the distortions as a guide, we'll take a moment and write down a short summary of these thoughts.

Quirk is designed to be easy to use on the go, so it's fine if your thoughts aren't as fleshed out as we can get looking back at the moment.

screenshot of challenging a distortion in quirk

Step 4: Alternative Thought

Finally, we get to the entire point of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: changing your thoughts. That thought was the problem in the first place.

If we let ourselves sit and cycle through this type of thought, we'll just make ourselves miserable.

So instead, CBT trains you to change your thoughts by getting you to consciously write down what a logical automatic thought might be.

screenshot of a final thought in quirk

A note on Non-Medical Uses

You may have noticed that the thought above wasn't particularly abnormal. Most people have thoughts like these and many let themselves get caught up in them.

Not all unpleasant moods are pathology, but that doesn't mean you can't use CBT to prevent yourself from getting too upset.

CBT is a really good tool for removing cognitive biases in general, which can help you in all sorts of ways. As a developer it helps me make rational decisions in my product and not just get caught up in the whims of the moment.

Open Source and Following

Quirk is open source under GPL. You can peer into the source as much as you'd like! You can submit bug reports and feature requests there if you'd like. You can also follow along on Product Hunt.


Made with love by Evan Conrad