Top Apps for Your Mental Health
SmartPhone help with anxiety, habits, depression, addiction, OCD, even suicide.
Posted Oct 27, 2015
Apps may never replace a therapist...Or maybe they will. Good efficacy data isn't yet available but it's unarguable that an app is available 24/7 instead of 50 minutes a week, is more patient than a human therapist, there's no stigma to using an app, and it's dramatically less expensive.
Of course, for some people, therapy and/or drugs will be needed but, for cost and convenience alone, or if only as an adjunct to therapy, the following eight apps and two YouTube channels deserve a look. They all incorporate well-established psychological principles and have high user ratings across many reviewers.
Pacifica (iPhone and Android, $3.99 a month after a seven-day free trial) is a suite of activities designed to reduce anxiety and depression. It allows you to rate and track your mood, to voice-record your negative reactions to events and to respond to questions to help you reframe those events so they bother you less. Pacifica offers relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing. Plus, it lets you set and track daily health goals for reducers of anxiety and depression such as exercise, sleep, and relationships. Here's a 30-second introductory video.
Moodkit (iPhone, $4.99) covers similar ground to Pacifica but offers 200 activities to choose from plus a journal that asks you questions and offers templates to help you archive your thoughts. Some say that Moodkit includes so much and its interface isn't as slick as Pacifica's, so it can feel complicated. Others love it. Here's a two-minute introductory video.
After publication of this article a reader, "Katie," suggested What's Up?.iPhone, $3.99) It covers similar ground and has fine reader reviews. While less pretty, it offers useful other features such as 12 common negative thinking patters and simple methods to overcome them, and The Grounding Game, with 100 questions to keep you grounded when stress is taking over. .
Because these programs are similar and so inexpensive, you might try all three to see which works best for you.
WebMD's Depression TV (free) This site offers a series of well-produced short videos, including one by Andrew Solomon, depression sufferer and author of the National Book Award-winning book on depression, Noonday Demon.
Way of Life (iPhone, free, $4.99 for the premium version) In that premium version, you can specify up to 10 habits you want to make or break, get as many or few reminders as you want, and track your progress. Way of Life has an easy interface and shows your progress on beautiful charts. Here's a 30-second introductory video.
Rewire Habit Tracker (Android 4.5, free). This is similar and it rewards you for winning streaks--days in a row that you maintain a habit. Here's a two-minute introductory video--Ignore its scary music.
IM Quit (Android, free) It tracks your successes and failures and allows you to note what you're doing or thinking when they occur. IM Quit offers encouraging quotes and you can substitute your own.
12 Steps AA Companion (iPhone, Android, $1.99). It tracks your progress and includes much of the AA Big Book plus personal stories. It makes it easy to find support from other AA members, for example, using your phone's GPS to direct you to a nearby AA support person. Here's a 30-second introductory video.
HBO's Addiction Channel: This offers a series of quality videos accompanied by authoritative articles.
Live OCD Free (iPhone, $79.99) It contains both an adult or child version. It guides you through desensitization exercises, for example, for five minutes, practicing opening a doorknob without washing your hands. Embedded are tools to help you relax as you're practicing. You can set reminders to practice, it keeps track of your progress, and you can set it to give you rewards for meeting the goals you set. It also contains tools to help you reduce compulsions. Here's a five-minute introductory video to the adult version. Here's a seven-minute introductory video to the kids version.
Operation Reach Out (iPhone, Android, free). This uses brief videos to help people who are having suicidal thoughts to reassess their thinking. tt also makes it easy to get help when in crisis, for example, a phone number to a suicide help line. The app also offers guidance for family members. It was developed by the military but is useful to all who might need it.
Trying out one of these apps is one of the lower-risk steps you can take to improve your mental wellbeing and day-to-day functioning. I hope you'll try at least one.