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What are the best mental health apps to help you feel better?

Updated: Feb 2


Yep! Apps can be a great self-help tool or a supplement to therapy. The idea is the more you pay attention to your thoughts, feelings & behaviors, the more ability you have to start addressing them if you want to. The simple act of noticing your patterns and increasing your self-awareness is itself a healing step.


It's also helpful for me as a therapist when clients use a tracking tool (be it an app or a written journal or whatever) because I can help clients look at trends and hone in on certain patterns or incidents so we can better understand what might be going on for them.


There are a LOT of options and the below is a sampling along with some that clients I work with are particularly fond of. Take a look at some of these options and scroll down for some basic descriptions of the app features. And if there is a topic you don't see listed, there is probably an app out there for it....trust me.


Breathing & Meditation

10% Happier

Breathe2Relax

Buddhify

Calm *client favorite

Headspace *client favorite

Insight Timer *client favorite

Stop Breath & Think *client favorite


Anxiety-focused

Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM)

Pacifica

Mindshift


Depression/Mood-tracking/Journal apps

CBT Thought Record Diary

Daylio *client favorite

Fight Depression Naturally

IMoodJournal

Mood *client favorite

MoodKit

Moodnotes

Moodpath

Mood Tools

Stigma

What's Up


Mood apps that include games

SuperBetter

Happify *client favorite


Eating Concerns

Recovery Record *client favorite

Rise Up and Recover


General Healthy Living

Lifesum

Fight Depression Naturally

Quit That!

Smoke Free


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

GCOC:OCD Relief *client favorite

nOCD *client favorite

Live OCD Free

Worry Watch


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD Coach *client favorite

Breathe2Relax


Relationships

Gottman Card Decks *client favorite


Schizophrenia

UCSF PRIME


Suicide Prevention

MY3

Operation Reach Out


Support Communities

Bipolar Disorder Connect

Lantern Health

TalkLife


Descriptions

Breathing & Meditation


10% Happier - the app offers a series of meditation courses designed especially for those who are very skeptical about meditation. The instructional video and audio meditation library has over two dozen courses, each with 10 to 14 videos focusing on topics like stress, anxiety, sleep, or becoming more productive.The courses are available through in-app subscriptions.

Breathe2Relax - an app developed for stress management. It walks you through breathing exercises that help to reduce stress, stabilize mood, control anger, and manage anxiety. The app’s developers note that it can be used on its own to help reduce stress or in combination with other therapies.


Buddhify - an interactive app designed to introduce users to techniques of meditation to foster a state of mindfulness and well-being in everyday life situations. The app requires active listening, and is also designed to enhance concentration through meditations without distraction, and promote emotional balance through uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. Buddhify offers 80 guided meditations ranging in length from approximately 4 to 30 minutes. These meditations were composed and directed by 5 different, experienced meditation guides who are male and female, and speak in soothing and comforting voices.


Calm - *client favorite Calm provides guided meditations, sleep stories, breathing programs, and relaxing music to help with stress and anxiety. Great app if you are new to meditation, but it also offers programs for more advanced users. Calm focuses on four key areas: meditation, breathing, sleep, and relaxation, with the aim of bringing joy, clarity, and peace to your daily life. The app delivers meditations to de-stress, as well as breathing programs, music, and sounds from nature to relax your mind and body and promote better sleep. Meditations are available in lengths of 3–25 minutes.

Headspace - *client favorite Headspace's mission is to provide you with the essential tools to achieve a happier, healthier life. Whether you need to build healthier relationships, find a place of calm, keep your mind fit, or reduce stress, Headspace has hundreds of themed mindfulness and meditation sessions to support you. The app reports that meditation reduces daily stress and improves focus & attention and enhances compassionate behavior toward others in just 3 weeks.


Insight Timer - *client favorite Insight Timer offers nearly 10,000 free guided meditations to choose from. You can search for a meditation tailored for what exactly what you need at the moment (like the length, subject topic, style, silent or spoken, etc.). It also serves as a community of meditators worldwide and users can connect with others who are meditating at the same time.


Stop Breathe & Think - *client favorite mindfulness and meditation app intended to help you cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. First you log in how you are feeling emotionally and physically (you choose emoticons and icons that fit how you feel at that moment) and then you are given several recommended breathing or meditation exercises. The app also provides instructions on how to meditate, along with 27 free meditation audios (with more available through subscription) lasting from 2–20 minutes.


Anxiety-focused apps


Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM) - SAM might be a fit for you if you’re interested in self-help, but meditation isn’t your thing. Users are prompted to build their own 24-hour anxiety toolkit that allows you to track anxious thoughts and behaviors over time, and to learn 25 different self-help techniques. You can also use SAM’s “Social Cloud” feature to confidentially connect with other users in an online community for additional support.


Pacifica - an app that provides a toolbox to deal with daily anxiety and stress, along with a highly supportive community of like-minded individuals. Pacifica aims to help you break cycles of unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through methods such as CBT, mindfulness meditation, mood tracking, and relaxation. The app offers audio lessons and activities that help you to cope with stress and depression, and it sets daily challenges to help you tackle anxiety one day at a time and reach your long-term goals. Full access requires a paid subscription.


Mind Shift - Mind Shift is designed specifically for young adults with anxiety. Rather than trying to avoid anxious feelings, Mind Shift stresses the importance of changing how you think about anxiety. This app describes itself as a cheerleader in your pocket, encouraging you to take charge of your life, ride out intense emotions, and face challenging situations.


Depression/Mood-tracking/Journal apps


CBT Thought Record Diary - The centerpiece of cognitive-behavioral therapy for mood difficulties is changing your emotions by identifying negative and distorted thinking patterns. You can use CBT Thought Record Diary to document negative emotions, analyze flaws in your thinking, and reevaluate your thoughts. This is a helpful app for gradually changing your approach to anxiety-inducing situations and your thinking patterns for future situations.


Daylio - *client favorite Daylio is a micro-diary app that lets you keep track of your moods without having to write down your feelings. Just select videos and icons that correspond with your mood to track how your feelings ebb and flow. You can also use the journaling tool to jot down notes, but if you’re looking for a simple and quick way to keep tabs on your feelings, this app makes it easy.


Fight Depression Naturally - some people want to complement their depression treatment or avoid medications with natural remedies. Fight Depression Naturally helps you by providing a variety of tools for healthier eating, journaling, and sleep improvement. It offers yoga techniques, inspirational quotes, and nature sounds — all aimed at helping you manage depression using natural techniques.


IMoodJournal - Part personal journal and part mood tracker, IMoodJournal can be used to record many things like mood, symptoms, sleep, medications, and energy cycles. By tracking these various factors, you’re able to analyze your daily feelings through summary charts that indicate where your stress levels rise and fall.


Mood - *client favorite this app allows you to track your mood by selecting emoticons that match your current state. Each time you post a session, Mood analyzes your overall emotional state using complex algorithms. The app acts as a mood diary with journal prompts, predictive calendar, emotional journal, live venting, and tracking for episodes of depression and anxiety. The app includes personal micro diary to keep notes about your emotions and experiences, live venting, community posts, optional notifications to remind you to post a session, passcode lock to ensure privacy and keep your data safe, charts that showcase your most frequently selected moods and valuable statistics about your moods.


MoodKit - uses the foundation of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and provides you with over 200 different mood improvement activities. Developed by two clinical psychologists, MoodKit helps you learn how to change how you think, and develop self-awareness and healthy attitudes. The journal feature allows you to reflect on the day, noting any distressing thoughts, and documenting how you overcame them.


Moodnotes - a thought journal and mood diary. The app can be used to capture your feelings and improve your thinking habits through the implementation of CBT and positive psychology. Track your mood and increase self-awareness of what influences it. Learn to recognize "traps" in your thinking and ways to rethink the situation. If you happen to enter a "thinking trap," Moodnotes will provide suggestions and useful perspectives to reduce stress and enhance well-being. Progress is view-able in the "Insights" dashboard.


Moodpath - this app describes itself as a "pocket-sized mental health companion." Moodpath asks daily questions in order to assess your well-being and screen for symptoms of depression. The screening progress aims to increase your awareness of your thoughts, emotions, and feelings. After a period of 2 weeks, the app generates an electronic document that you can discuss with a healthcare professional. More than 150 videos and psychological exercises are available to help you understand your mood and strengthen your mental health.


Mood Tools - aims to support people with clinical depression by aiding the path to recovery. Offers videos to improve your mood and behavior through useful tips for coping with depression. You can log and analyze your thoughts using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) principles, develop a suicide safety plan and more with this free app. From guided meditations to journaling, this app enables users to identify and monitor their moods and find healthy ways to cope with negative emotions.


Stigma - Stigma provides an easy way to journal and then visually display the words you use the most in that text as a way to track your thoughts and feelings. The app can also track mood in a visual calendar and graph how your mood adjusts over time. The app’s word cloud technology recognizes which words you use the most when writing down your feelings allowing you to reflect on why these are your go-to emotions. It also has a social network dimension, which allows users to connect with peers through messaging.


What's Up - a free app that uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) methods to help you cope with Depression, Anxiety, Stress, and more. You can use the positive and negative habit tracker to maintain your good habits, and break those that are counterproductive. App also offers the “Get Grounded” page, which contains over 100 different questions to pinpoint what you’re feeling, and the “Thinking Patterns” page, which teaches you how to stop negative internal monologues.


Apps that include games


SuperBetter - a game app focusing on increasing resilience and the ability to remain strong, optimistic, and motivated when presented with challenging obstacles in life. A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that when people played SuperBetter for 30 days, their mood improved, symptoms of anxiety and depression decreased, and confidence to achieve goals increased. The app can help you to adopt new habits, improve your skills, strengthen relationships, complete meaningful projects, and achieve your goals.


Happify - *client favorite Happify offers a space to overcome negative thoughts and stress and build resilience. Whether you are feeling stressed, anxious, or sad, Happify helps you to regain control of your thoughts and feelings. Happify reports that 86% of users report feeling better about their lives after 2 months of using it. Happify employs techniques and evidence-based interventions in the areas of CBT, positive psychology, and mindfulness to help you break old and unhealthful patterns and form new, healthful habits. The app offers activities and games to improve your life satisfaction and ability to fight negativity. Your emotional well-being is calculated as a happiness score that you can improve upon each week.

Eating Concerns


Recovery Record - *client favorite an app for anyone recovering from an eating disorder and wanting to develop a more positive body image. Keep a record of the meals you eat and how they make you feel using the app and complete questionnaires that’ll help you track your progress over time. Results can also be shared with a clinician or mental health provider.


Rise Up and Recover - Rise Up + Recover is a unique app as it not only allows you to track your meals and how you feel when you eat them, but you can also transcribe your progress into a PDF printout. Pull up the Rise + Recover app on your mobile when you feel the urge to binge or skip a meal, and need quick coping strategies.


General Healthy Living


Lifesum - Lifesum is a broader resource for all things healthy living. The app allows you to set personal goals, from eating healthier, to building more muscle and getting in more steps each day. You can also enter your own personal data and let Lifesum generate a “Life Score” to get a personalized road map to better health. With reminders to drink water and eat regularly throughout the day, Lifesum is a great option for anyone trying to live healthier.


Quit That! - *client favorite Quit That! is a free app that helps users beat their habits or addictions. It tracks habits you are trying to quit and shows accomplishments along the way, like how long it's been since quitting and how much money you have saved.


Smoke Free - this app takes a science-backed approach with more than 20 evidence-based techniques to help you quit smoking for good. Log your cravings and get tips for managing them, plus insights into craving patterns and graphs to monitor your overall progression. You also have the option of participating in a rigorous scientific experiment that will help more people quit smoking successfully.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Apps


nOCD - *client favorite An app targeted to individuals with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and designed with the help of OCD specialists and patients to incorporate two treatments: mindfulness and Exposure Response Prevention Treatment. You can receive immediate guidance during an OCD episode, weekly tests to assess severity of your symptoms, OCD information and education, data about the condition and treatment, and motivational support in the form of notifications.


GCOC: OCD Relief - *client favorite This app aims to improve OCD symptoms by increasing the your awareness of negative thoughts and training the brain to challenge them. On first use, you are led through a brief explanation of the app’s goals and how it works. Next, you are shown the home screen which consists of 48 levels. Each level consists of short games with its own theme, and you are recommended to complete 3 levels per day. The first few levels aim to promote automaticity of positive self talk. Later themes include: self esteem, belief in change, self criticism, negative thinking, coping, and more. Additional features such as mood tracking can be unlocked through purchase of a subscription.


Live OCD Free - Live OCD Free claims it has been shown to reduce OCD symptoms by 34% in just 8 weeks. The app guides you through Exposure and Response Prevention treatment, helps you to create practice goals, and provides a multitude of tools to help fight OCD at any given moment. You can also try their newly-launched forum (accessible from the website) for ongoing support from OCD experts and sufferers.


Worry Watch - One of the most frustrating parts of living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can be dealing with intense anxiety despite the fact you know your worries are irrational. Worry Watch aims to help you identify your trigger points for anxiety, note trends in your feelings, reflect on when the outcomes were harmless, and change your thinking patterns for the future. Think of it as your personal, password-protected, worry diary.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)


PTSD Coach - *client favorite Created by the Veteran’s Affairs National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), PTSD Coach offers everything from a self-assessment for PTSD, to opportunities to find support, positive self-talk, and anger management. You can customize tools based on your individual needs and preferences, and integrate your own contacts, photos, and music.


Breathe2Relax - Sometimes you just need to breathe and remind yourself you are okay. Breathe2Relax is made for just that. This app is a portable stress management tool that teaches you a skill called diaphragmatic breathing. Breathe2Relax works by decreasing the body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ stress response, making it a great option for people suffering from PTSD.


Relationships


Gottman Card Decks - *client favorite This app is from The Gottman Institute, where relationships have been studied for 40+ years to understand what helps them thrive. This free app offers more than a thousand helpful questions and ideas for improving your relationship,with different "decks" of cards to do things like get to know your partner better, get date night ideas, express emotions or appreciation, and even "Salsa" decks to add some spice to your intimate life.


Schizophrenia


UCSF PRIME - Schizophrenia patients are prone to social isolation even when their condition is treated. The PRIME app, created by psychiatry professor Danielle Shlosser, connects people with schizophrenia to their peers through a social network style interface. It also lets users track “challenge goals,” things they’d like to accomplish or improve about themselves.


Suicide Prevention


MY3 - an app aimed at people who are depressed and suicidal, and trains you to recognize suicide warning signs in others. MY3 asks you to choose three close contacts that you feel comfortable reaching out to when you’re down and keeps you connected to this core network. This best part of this app is that it helps you create your own safety plan asking you to think through and list your own warning signs, coping strategies and support network, so that you can easily act when you recognize your warning signs.


Operation Reach Out - Many veterans and people in the military deal with depression that can interfere with their quality of life. Operation Reach Out is designed specifically for veterans and includes links to hotlines for support, as well as videos on the benefits of getting help for depression. This is also a great app if you’re looking for resources to help a loved one who you think may be dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts.


Communities


Bipolar Disorder Connect - Bipolar Disorder Connect is an app that connects people with bipolar disorder from around the world. This tool gives you access to a community of people living with the condition. The app also features tracking tools to help you monitor your moods and share those updates. Bipolar disorder can be frustrating, especially if you don’t have anyone close to you that can identify with your struggles.


Lantern Health - CBT and mindfulness are two tools that can support people with depression. Lantern members get a personal coach they can message at any time. Plus, the app features CBT basics to teach users about changing their thoughts to improve their lives. Sign up for daily practices to deal with depression, and improve your quality of life with the tools and support you’ll find in this app. For full access, Lantern Health is $49.99 per month, which they say may be covered by your insurance.


TalkLife - People living with depression and other mental health conditions do well when they have the support of others. TalkLife is an online community for people looking for support. You can post anonymously if you wish, and chat back and forth with others. Whether you need support or want to help others, this app gives users a safe place to connect about depression.


There are a LOT of apps out there and the above are just a sampling. Many clients I work with appreciate having a daily tool and end up learning a lot about themselves and what gets in the way for them as they are working to feel better. Do you have a favorite app that's not listed above? Let me know!



****One additional piece to consider is the privacy of your data and the settings you choose when you consider using an app. You may be sharing highly personal pieces of yourself and each app will handle and protect your data differently so it's worth looking into.


Source credits: This list is a compilation of summaries and reviews from several sources. App descriptions have been slightly edited and modified but do not represent original content.


https://www.healthline.com/health/quit-smoking/top-iphone-android-apps

https://www.psycom.net/25-best-mental-health-apps

https://iocdf.org/ocd-apps/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320557.php

https://www.happierhuman.com/best-mood-tracker-apps/

© 2017 Heather M. McKenzie, Therapist LCMHC PLLC

(919) 744-8335

heather@mckenziecounseling.org

all areas of North Carolina, United States​