It can be challenging to maintain your mental health. Navigating day-to-day stresses and the sometimes not-so-easily accessible healthcare options can be frustrating. However, there is an increasing number of useful applications specifically designed to support and boost mental health. Some are intended to address specific issues, such as anxiety and depression, while others are broader in nature and take a more comprehensive approach.
Apps can be a unique mental health resource with the ability to help track symptoms and even provide adjunctive treatments. For instance, many applications promise to help monitor mood symptoms and give access to workouts and lessons inspired by therapy. There are presently applications that target all major psychiatric disorders and therapeutic modalities.
Regardless of your reason for choosing a mental health app, finding the one that best meets your particular needs can be daunting. To help focus your search, you’ll want answers to some basic questions. You’ll want to know:
- How easy or difficult is the app to use?
- How effective is the app in addressing my mental health goals?
- Is the app able to personalize addressing my individual needs?
- Does the app provide constructive and useful feedback?
- Is there scientific evidence that demonstrates the app’s effectiveness?
Although the vast majority of apps available are not generally peer-reviewed, the American Psychiatric Association has created an app rating method to help physicians, behavioral psychologists, psychotherapists, and other mental health professionals determine the effectiveness and dangers of smartphones and website apps. Many health experts expect that by offering novel strategies for the self-management of mental health conditions, apps will play a significant role in the future of mental health care.
The following ten mental health apps barely scratch the surface of the number of apps available, but each has been carefully chosen based on the criteria mentioned above.
Designed by the National Center for PTSD to help those with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), PTSD Coach provides you with PTSD knowledge, professional care information, PTSD self-assessment, support opportunities, and tools that can help you handle the pressures of everyday life with PTSD. For those who require individual treatment, struggle to make safe decisions, or need a high-frequency direct clinical interface, this app is not recommended.
Tools vary from skills for calming and constructive self-talk to anger management and other basic methods for self-help. Based on your preferences, you can customize tools and integrate your own contacts, images, and music. New to PTSD Coach is a self-guided safety plan for suicide prevention that follows the US Department of Veterans Affairs format.
MoodTools is a self-help app designed to combat depression. Research-supported tools include:
- YouTube Videos, such as TED talks or guided meditations, selected to improve your mood and overall behavior.
- The PHQ-9 Depression Questionnaire designed to chart the severity of your symptoms.
Information Resources ranging from reading material and internet recommendations to thorough self-help guides.
- A template to devise a Suicide Safety Plan that includes emergency information for someone in a suicidal crisis.
- Activities based on Behavioral Activation Therapy that tracks your mood and helps you recapture your energy.
- A Thought Diary based on principles from Cognitive Therapy for thought analysis and identifying negative patterns of thinking.
Mindfulness is one of the most effective methods of addressing modern life’s stress and demanding pace, and Headspace does it brilliantly. With the sole mission of improving the world’s health and happiness, the popular app has millions of users in more than 190 countries.
Paired with calming meditation, Headspace teaches the essentials of mindfulness and meditation, providing users access to a variety of exercises that enhance behavior. The app offers all registered users ten free days of content to begin their mindfulness journey. While they may then opt to subscribe for a small monthly or yearly fee, individuals can also continue to access the free content without taking this step. The aim is to enable individuals who suffer from anxiety, depression, or the effects of PTSD to address their needs through guided meditation and active mindfulness immediately.
Three New York City serial entrepreneurs set out in 2012 to use their gaming and technology experience to help improve the lives of others. With the shared belief that the “skill” of happiness can be strengthened, they created the interactive Happify app. The app merges science and fun, uniquely engaging people in a proactive experience to live life more fully.
Through activities and games supported by positive psychology and mindfulness studies, Happify is a free (with an upgrade available), self-guided app that aims to improve positive emotions. The initial questionnaire is used to denote “tracks” for a given individual, while follow up activity addresses various goals related to building relationships, reducing worry, improving health, or dealing with chronic pain. Users are encouraged to read information provided about scientific reasoning and research.
If recent research is correct, social isolation and loneliness are serious issues facing many modern cultures. They also tend to deepen existing troubles, especially anxiety or depression. But there are excellent ways to manage such feelings.
According to the Independent, 7 Cups offers users instant access to a supportive community. And while they may elect to chat online in a text format, the app provides even more support. Having an actual conversation with a person who understands what’s happening can have an immediate and comforting impact on many psychological conditions. Add the automatic anonymity feature that the application offers users, and any hint of stigma or weakness completely vanishes.
Features of the 7 Cups app include:
- Chatting one on one with a listener any time
- Feeling supported in community forums and chat rooms
- Access to licensed therapists and online message therapy
- More than 300 free mindfulness calming exercises
- A free wellness test with personalized care
- Simple activities designed to boost your mood
- Insightful short videos to learn and grow
Everyone needs help to balance their mental state at times. These apps aren’t merely for those actively engaged in therapy for a specific challenge, such as anxiety or depression. Maintaining psychological and physical health can be a tall order, even if everything seems perfect in life. That’s why these ten apps help enhance mindfulness, provide an outlet for stress, or offer the comfort of human contact—in essence. They’re ideal for anyone seeking better mental health.
A simple, intuitive, and attractive mobile app designed by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, Breath2Relax is a tool for stress management that offers detailed information on the effects of stress on the body. Diaphragmatic breathing techniques are taught through guidance and exercises, which may be applied to anxiety disorders, stress, and PTSD.
Breathing exercises have been reported to minimize the ‘fight-or-flight’ (stress) response of the body and assist with mood stabilization, control of frustration, and anxiety management. This app can be tailored to a soothing speed for the user and includes a video tutorial, reading materials, and graphs to chart personal progress. It is helpful to use either individually for stress reduction or in conjunction with work being done with a therapist.
To function optimally, our brains depend on proper hydration. Brain cells need a delicate balance to work between water and different elements, and that balance is broken when you lose too much water. Efficiency is lost by brain cells.
According to an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Gaoli Saedi Bocci lists the Pink Pad Free app among her top picks for health and nutrition tracking. Maintaining a high standard of nutrition, daily motion, and adequate, restful sleep is crucial to good mental health. That’s not just for those working with challenging conditions, but for all human beings.
Most adults don’t drink enough water during the day. Believe it or not, this impacts how the brain and body function and can seriously affect mental wellbeing. This app makes logging water consumption fun and straightforward, making the difference between hydration and dehydration easy to track.
While there are many adorable or amusing applications across the range of mental health improvement programs, SuperBetter is something a bit different. Designed to achieve goals, build resilience, and take on the challenges of stress, anxiety, chronic pain, concussion recovery, depression, and more, SuperBetter believes that everyone has heroic potential.
It is how they approach drawing out that personal heroism that SuperBetter does so uniquely. By designing an app that mirrors online gameplay techniques, they offer their clients a different perspective. Using real milestones in pain or mental health management, the designers provide individuals with goals and missions, quite similar to popular video and online gaming designs. Through gameplay, SuperBetter users can:
- Achieve a physical or athletic breakthrough, adopt a new habit, strengthen relationships, learn or improve a skill, pursue a lifelong dream, or complete a meaningful project.
- Recover from posttraumatic stress, beat depression, cope with chronic pain, overcome anxiety, heal from physical injury, or manage stress.
- Handle a school or career setback, find a new job, healthily grieve a loss, or survive a divorce.
- Build student resilience and improve social-emotional learning for students, patients, and educators.
One of the unique things about Mood Panda is that it functions purely for the benefit of its community, and through voluntary donations, it sustains itself. The completely free app is cute and easy to use, making it an excellent tool for analyzing and understanding how moods shift throughout the day and throughout the week.
Essentially, Mood Panda is an online journal application that allows users to record their feelings and thoughts. However, the platform also provides a supportive community for those in need of contact. When coupled with guided therapy, such journals and feedback from a network of fellow travelers can enhance an individual’s journey to maintain their mental health. No matter what challenges they face, understanding their internal landscape and shifting nature is critical to a healthy outlook.
CPT Coach is aimed at people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who are in intensive treatment with a qualified therapist for Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). This app was not designed for use without the guidance of a professional healthcare provider.
- This app provides education about PTSD symptoms and a multi-session, step-by-step guide that follows the tests related to each week of CPT care. In essence, the app is a complete course that helps patients manage their therapy. CPT Coach intends that it be used by the patient in combination with CPT therapy. From scheduling appointments to reminders for homework, various potential prompts and reminders provide an additional layer of critical structure and predictability often needed for PTSD treatments
Updated January 2021