Mobile ADHD awareness game launches in Germany

Psyon Games

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults is not well understood and highly underdiagnosed, but the developers of a mobile game designed to raise awareness hope to shine a light on the struggles of people living with the condition.

The FULL ADHD software, now launched in Germany after an initial rollout in Finland, has been developed by Psyon Games and pharma group Takeda. It aims to build empathy for people with ADHD, validate the experiences of those living with neurodivergence, and help family members and other loved ones understand how ADHD affects them, and provide support.

In the game, the player follows the ADHD journey of a young adult character called Eddie, combining story, science, and experiential learning techniques that were developed with the help of leading Finnish psychiatrist and ADHS expert Asko Niemelä.

It is described as a “visual novel” that helps the player understand how difficult it can be for people with ADHD to focus on essential tasks when a thousand other thoughts are running through their heads, finish one task when another is jostling for their attention, or regulate their emotions.

“By making choices that affect the character Eddie’s life, the user encounters the limits of Eddie’s cognitive executive function resources, which represent his ability to organise focus, exert effort, remember, and regulate emotions,” according to the developers.

“These resources may deplete unexpectedly for individuals with ADHD, leading the story in unpredictable directions.”

The prevalence of ADHD in young adults in Germany is estimated to be around 5%, but health insurance data suggests that diagnosis rates are below 0.4%, which would mean that thousands of young people are struggling to manage ADHD symptoms without a diagnosis.

Ulla Bracellari, a public ADHD advocate, wrote in her blog: “At times, I laughed like crazy because the events of the game brought up so many relatable memories. Some of the experiences displayed are still a part of everyday life. In a way, the game was extremely therapeutic for me.”

The game – downloaded 40,000 times in Finland during its soft launch there – has also won a string of awards, including the Most Valuable Patient Education prize at the Reuters Pharma Europe 2022 event and the Medical Information Act Award in 2021 from Pharma Industry Finland.

User data suggests it is much more effective than conventional awareness campaigns, where people typically spend just a minute or two viewing content, as players interacted with FULL ADHD for at least 17 minutes and in some cases hours. It also generated a 310% higher click-through rate compared with traditional campaigns, according to Takeda and Psyon.

“For decades, adults living with ADHD have suffered from stigma due to misinformation from the media and ingrained attitudes about mental illness,” commented Stephen Faraone of SUNY Upstate Medical University in the US, a specialist in ADHD and related disorders.

“I was very pleased to learn that Psyon Games and Takeda have created an innovative approach to battle stigma via FULL ADHD, an innovative, engaging mobile game that will improve public awareness about ADHD in adults through empathetic gameplay and real-life stories.”

FULL ADHD is available for download on Google Play and the App Store in selected countries. A spokesperson said the aim is to launch in multiple geographies but could not comment on specific future launches.