App Reviews /

Personal Zen Review

Personal Zen Screenshots


3.67 / 5.00

Overall Score: 11/15

Consumer Ratings: 0/2
Proposed Goal: 2/2
Evidence Based Content: 0/1
Software Updates: 2/2
Clinical Input in Development: 1/1
Research on Development Process: 0/1
Efficacy of Other Products: 1/1
Research Independence and Review: 2/2
Research Base: 3/3

Rating Date: August 2020

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User Experince

User Experience

4.10 / 5.00

Engagement: 3.85 Functionality: 4.25 Aesthetics: 4.42 Information: 3.88 Subjective quality score: 3.31 Perceived impact score: 3.08 Rating date: September 2020 Rated by: Queensland University

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Overall Score: Unacceptable

Does the app have a privacy policy?:Yes
Does the policy describe the information storage and sharing procedures related to user entered information OR state that user information is stored locally?:Yes
Does the app provide the option of a pin entry or log-in process to view and enter user data?:Yes
Does the privacy policy state that the app/server encrypts the entered data OR state that user information is stored locally?:No/Can’t Tell
Does the privacy policy state whether or not users can delete entered information OR state that user information is stored locally?:Yes
Does the privacy policy state whether or not users can edit entered information OR state that user information is stored locally?:Yes

Rating Date: May 2021

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Personal Zen is an app aimed to help users reduce stress and anxiety through a game. The game shows both friendly and angry sprites, instructing the user to shift attention towards the friendly sprite and follow his path as he burrows underground. The app sets daily and weekly goals for total time playing, which can be personalized based on the user’s desired outcome: “Maintain Positive Outlook” or “Stress Busting”. Personal Zen will require a subscription from users that will cost $1.99 per month or $12.99 per year.

Read the Professional Review for Personal Zen: A Professional Review

Technical Details

Available for: Requires iOS 8.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
Developer: Personal Zen Ventures, LLC.
Type of Treatment: Not Specified, (Attention Bias Modification Training (ABMT))
Targeted Conditions: Stress and Anxiety
Target Audience: Not Specified
Designed to be used in conjunction with a professional? No
Languages Available: English
Cost: Free with in-app purchases
Get it on: Apple App Store

Research on this App

A 2014 study examined if a mobile intervention using attention-bias modification training (ABMT) (Personal Zen uses this type of training) would be an effective treatment for stress and anxiety. 78 highly trait anxious participants were drawn from an Introduction to Psychology course at an urban university in New York City. Participants were randomly assigned to either a placebo condition or either a single long ABMT (45 minutes) or short ABMT session (25 minutes). It was found that ABMT sessions, relative to the placebo one, reduced subjective anxiety, and observed reactivity. The long sessions showed reductions in core cognitive processes with stress and anxiety. (Dennis & O’Toole. 2014.

A gamified ABMT mobile application, Personal Zen, was utilized in a study of 42 (21 female) trait anxious adults. Participants would be randomly assigned to either an ABMT or a placebo condition. EEG recordings were taken during pre- and post-training threat bias assessment to determine neurocognitive responses to threats. Following the assigns to the apps, subjective anxiety, and stress responses (observed and reported) were measured. It was found that ABMT showed improvements to performance during stress tasks. (Dennis, Egan, Babkirk, Denefrio. 2016.

This paper wanted to investigate whether a mobile gamified ABMT would reduce prenatal threat bias, anxiety, stress, and if ABMT’s efficacy varied with individuals’ differences in neural responses to threat. 29 women in their 19th-29th week of pregnancy took part in this study. These participants were randomized to four weeks of an ABMT (Personal Zen) or a placebo version of an app using a double-blind design. Self-report measures of anxiety, depression, and stress were obtained; salivary cortisol was collected at home and in the lab in response to stressors; and threat bias was measured using a computerized attention assay using an EEG that recorded threat cues. It was found that ABMT’s main effect was a reduction in cortisol which then correlated to lower levels of subjective anxiety and threat bias. ABMT was also found to reduce behavioral indices of prenatal stress and anxiety but the effects varied with individual differences in cortisol response and neurocognitive indices of early attention to threat. (Dennis-Tiwary, Denefrio, & Gelber. 2017.

How we evaluate

We review apps against rating criteria developed by experts in the field. Some of those criteria are:



We look at the research supporting the technology and the credibility of the development process.



We review privacy policies to see if key pieces of information about what happens with entered data are addressed.


User Experience

We explore how fun, functional, easy-to-use, engaging, and interesting the technology is.


Professional Reviews

A professional in a relevant field downloads and uses the technology and writes a narrative review, highlighting pros & cons and some recommendations for use.

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