This International Women’s Day, a Vancouver Island woman is being recognized for a smartphone app she developed to help people who experience anxiety and panic attacks.
Ania Wysocka’s app Rootd will be featured in Apple’s App Store on International Women’s Day as part of a celebration of app developers who are women.
The Victoria resident told CTV News Vancouver she developed the app, which has been downloaded more than 600,000 times, in response to her own struggles with anxiety.
Wysocka had her first panic attack during her fourth year as an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia.
“I really had no idea what (panic attacks) were beforehand, and I was really caught off guard,” Wysocka said. “I was far away from home, I had no family doctor, I was on a student loan budget, so I really relied on things I could find in textbooks and different resources online to figure out what was happening.”
Years later, she would look back on the experience and think about how much better it could have gone if she had known what to expect.
“That’s what inspired me to start Rootd,” she said.
The app has everything from guided meditations to an actual panic button, and Wysocka said users tend to embrace the features that help them with their specific needs.
“People really use it differently depending on what they are experiencing,” she said.
At the centre of all the app’s features is Ron, a little monster who serves as Rootd’s mascot. He’s a visual representation of anxiety, but he’s also friendly and supportive, Wysocka said.
“He was really a representation of how I felt at the time,” she said. “Through learning cognitive behavioural therapy, you kind of realize that you have to befriend some of these emotions that are otherwise really overwhelming, and so Ron became the symbol for that.”
Some of Rootd’s users really relate to Ron, Wysocka said.
“They talk about him like he is a person,” she said. “There’s reviews that come in along the lines of, you know, ‘Ron is the only one there for me,’ ‘I feel so alone, but then I have Ron and Ron gets me through the night.'”
Wysocka said she’s happy that the app has been a success and that Apple has decided to feature it for International Women’s Day.
That said, the stories of everyday people who use the app are more important to her than how many downloads it gets.
“(People) use Rootd to go back to school, they use Rootd to go back to work, they use Rootd to rebuild confidence that panic attacks and anxiety have taken away from them,” Wysocka said.
The app is available in the App Store and on Google Play, and more information is available on the Rootd website.
With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Nafeesa Karim
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