Relieve stress, anxiety, depression and OCD with these mental health apps.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 18% of people in the U.S. suffer from some form of anxiety-related disorder. More than 16 million adults in the United States — approximately 7% of the population — are affected by depression. As more individuals continue to struggle, software developers have begun scrambling to create mental health apps that assist people with these conditions. Currently more than 50 apps exist for stress management, depression and behavioral modification. While mental health apps are not designed to replace medication or face-to-face therapy sessions, many make mental health care services more accessible to those who need them, delivering a wide range of useful information as well as support for those with anxiety, depression, OCD and other related disorders.
Here are seven mental health apps to consider.
1. Talk Space
Launched in March 2014 Talkspace offers affordable, on-demand therapy and counseling (including couples’ therapy) sessions from trained professionals by allowing the user to connect with licensed therapists anonymously and privately (via text message, audio or video chat). After signing up, the user receives a free consultation with an agent who pairs the user with a therapist. Aside from being matched with a personal therapist, a member also receives access to a secure and discreet chat room. The service is affordable, assuming you use it on a regular basis. One month of unlimited therapy costs $128 (or $32 per week). The app has over 500,000 members. Currently Talkspace does not accept insurance (and only accepts payment by credit card). The app is free to download and available only for iOS devices.
Created for sufferers of anxiety, Pacifica is a mental health app that provides meditation-based tools to manage stress and anxiety. Aside from focusing on deep-breathing techniques and behavioral exercises, the app also aims to recognize and alleviate negative thinking patterns. Based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, the app allows the user to track their mood over time. After a user rates their current mood, the app provides suggested relaxation exercises as well as potential tools for improving the user’s mood. The app is $5.99 per month for premium service (or $35.99 per year) and is available for iOS and Android.
3. Live OCD Free
Designed for cognitive behavioral therapy treatment of OCD, Live OCD Free is an iPhone app designed to assist individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder. Based on exposure and response prevention, the app is designed to identify anxiety-provoking places, activities, situations and objects, as well as potential compulsions and rituals in hopes of assisting users to diminish their anxiety and fears. After signing up, users are asked to rate the anxiety they associate with specific exposures. Based on this information, the app creates a personalized Exposure Hierarchy with corresponding suggested coping strategies. Aside from guiding the user through various desensitization exercises, the app also tracks users’ progress, allows them to set goals, rewards them when they meet their goals and gradually recommends anxiety-provoking exposures in order to help users eventually reduce their compulsions and overcome their fears. The app is available only for the iPhone and costs $79.99.
Happify is designed to improve emotional and behavioral mental health and well-being. Specifically, the app provides evidence-based programs, exercises and activities based on positive psychology and cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as resources designed to help users overcome the secondary stress from chronic physical conditions. The app also provides resources on topics such as mindfulness, depression and anxiety. In addition to resources, Happify includes a number of games designed to promote positive thinking and meditation while reducing negative thinking, stress and anxiety. “If they are going to see a specialist once a week for 50 minutes, what happens in between?” said Happify President Ofer Leidner. “What happens if I leave a meeting with a boss and I’m really stressed? We designed the platform so people can interact in small doses whenever they need it.” In addition to free and paid subscription memberships for consumers, the app also offers business solutions for corporations.
Headspace is a guided-meditation app that helps users establish a meditative routine, while also allowing them to reduce stress and achieve mindfulness. Specifically, the app focuses on the two primary elements of meditation: visualization and breathing. Aside from providing breathing exercises and tips for better concentration, the app also contains resources on cognitive diffusion and other meditation methods. The app offers a free, 10-day program with an optional subscription service ($7.99 – $12.95) that allows users to unlock other features and programs. Each session lasts 10 minutes and is led by app developer Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk. Headspace is consistently among the most downloaded health and fitness offerings in the Apple App Store.
Created by researchers at Northwestern University in an NIH-funded study, Intellicare is a free, state-of-the-art suite of apps designed to treat factors linked to anxiety and depression. What’s most notable about the app is that it’s part of an ongoing national research study and has been field-tested nationally by clinical psychologists. To keep the user engaged, the app recommends new apps each week based on a short questionnaire. Within the suite of apps are the Boost Me app, designed to encourage users to engage in activities that will elevate their mood, as well as the Thought Challenge app, which attempts to eradicate distorted thinking patterns. David Mohr, professor of preventive medicine and director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies at the Feinberg School of Medicine, said he designed the apps to “fit easily into people’s lives. Some of the participants kept using them after the study because they felt the apps helped them feel better. Different apps are expected to work for different people. The goal is to find what’s right for you.” The free app is currently available for only Android from Google Play.
Developed for teens and young adults by the Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia, MindShift provides anxiety coping skills to enable teens to overcome stress, anxiety and fear. Specifically, the app uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help teens recognize anxiety-provoking situations (test anxiety, social anxiety, performance anxiety and panic) while also teaching them to develop more effective ways to combat the thoughts and fears that accompany such situations. The MindShift app allows adolescents to evaluate their level of anxiety in particular situations, while encouraging them to develop positive thinking patterns that will change their behavior. Tools include breathing exercises and other coping strategies. MindShift is available for free from both the App Store and Google Play.