Mental health apps claim to help users with their common mental disorders. Learn about 9 of the best mental health apps now available.
By Ashley Rosa
According to the World Health Organization, 300 million people suffer from depression worldwide. (1)
Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent among mental illnesses in the US, affecting almost 40 million Americans. (2)
Memory loss, especially memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease, is increasingly becoming widespread, affecting 5.7 million in the US alone. (3)
We often hear how technology, especially smartphones, is a significant factor in the deterioration our mental well-being.
Frequent social media use can result in depression and low self-esteem. (8)
However, one way to use technology to help your mental health is to make regular use of the right mental health apps.
The Benefits of Mental Health Apps
Millions of people experience a mental illness in their lifetime, but, due to fear of social stigma, lack of money or time, or limited access to mental health care, most never seek professional help. (9)
But with the number of effective mental health apps now available, these concerns can be minimized.
There are apps that can help you combat stress, anxiety, depression, memory loss, and other mental health disorders.
They utilize various treatment methods including mindfulness meditation, relaxation techniques, and online therapy.
A major benefit of mental health apps is that you can use them anywhere and at any time to address minor symptoms before they escalate.
Many apps are free of charge; even those that require a subscription fee are extremely affordable compared to working with a professional.
And finally, they let you be more in control of your own mental health.
Here are 9 of the best mental health apps we’ve found.
BrainTest is a smart app that offers scientifically backed cognitive screening designed to track early signs of Alzheimer’s, dementia progression, and other conditions.
BrainTest’s assessment is similar to that provided by doctors, but you can take the tests within the privacy and comfort of your home.
It also features videos that explain the results of your score.
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BrainTest is designed in partnership with the Ohio State University, allowing the developers to hold exclusive digital rights to the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE). (10)
The SAGE test is used by medical professionals to detect early signs of memory loss and other cognitive impairments such as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia.
You can take the test free of charge, then print your results and take them to your doctor to initiate a clinical diagnosis and treatment.
BrainTest is available for iPad and Android tablets.
Best use for BrainTest: Memory assessment
The US military’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology designed the app, Breath2Relax, for stress management.
However, it has also proven beneficial for numerous mental health issues such as anger management and anxiety.
This app guides you through a stress management skill called diaphragmatic breathing.
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Breathing exercises help with mood stabilization, anger control, and anxiety management by controlling the fight-or-flight stress response.
Breathe2Relax also provides informational videos that highlight the effects and consequences of stress.
This simple, effective app is available for free on all iOS and Android devices.
Best uses for Breathe2Relax: Stress, anxiety
Calm helps users deal with anxiety and feel more relaxed.
It won the prestigious Apple App of the Year award in 2017. (11)
Calm offers several categories of meditations to address anxiety relief, peak performance, personal growth, and more.
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There are meditations for everyone from beginners to advanced users, and even for kids.
If insomnia is a problem for you, Calm offers a unique feature called Sleep Stories — bedtime stories for grown-ups narrated by famous voices to help you relax before you go to sleep.
Calm is available for both iOS and Android devices.
Best uses for Calm: Stress, anxiety, insomnia, personal development
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As the name suggests, Happify helps users overcome negative thoughts, stress, and anxiety while embracing a happier outlook towards life.
This app is comprised of research-backed activities and games designed to increase contentment and reduce negativity.
Happify helps you control your thoughts and feelings with mindfulness techniques and positive psychology.
You can assess your emotional well-being using its happiness score and set goals to continually improve it.
✓ Complete Relaxation
Reprogram your brain to relax on demand with self-hypnosis
The New York Times called Happify “perhaps the most sophisticated positive vibes app available now.” (12)
Ofer Leidner, the co-founder of Happify, reports that 1.3 million people are now training on Happify.
An impressive 86% of users who use Happify for 6-8 weeks claim that they feel happier. (13)
Happify offers some features for free, but to access all its features you must get a paid subscription.
The app is available for Android and iOS devices.
Best uses for Happify: Stress, negative thinking, general life enhancement
Headspace is a mindfulness meditation app that has been widely popular since its launch.
It acts as a personal meditation guide to help you get the most out of your meditation practice.
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Headspace has been used in quite a few scientific studies (see their research page).
The makers of this app claim that, through its meditation lessons, Headspace can improve various aspects of life including relationships, performance, and overall wellness.
Headspace offers mindfulness sessions designed to alleviate anxiety, memory loss, stress, insomnia, and inattentiveness.
The app is available for both iOS and Android users.
Best uses for Headspace: Stress, anxiety, insomnia
Lantern is a web and mobile app that provides its users with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with experts.
CBT is the most widely used evidence-based treatment for mental health conditions. (16)
It is a form of talk therapy that helps you remedy your problems by altering your behaviors and ways of thinking.
Lantern is based on the concept that you can manage any larger issue by breaking it down into smaller, manageable parts.
It was created in partnership with experts from Stanford University, Penn State University, and Washington University in St. Louis.
Users begin by doing an assessment that tests their strengths and weaknesses in different areas including mood, sleep, anxiety, social life, and physical health.
This app then links you to a professional coach who guides you through daily exercises tailored to your needs, based on your assessment scores.
All Lantern coaches hold an advanced degree in a mental health-related field.
Lantern is a subscription-based app that costs a lot more than typical apps, but is a very affordable alternative to traditional cognitive behavioral therapy.
Best use for Lantern: Anyone who can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy
Pacifica integrates the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness.
Over 1.8 million people use Pacifica to manage their daily mental health with such tools as mood tracking, mindfulness meditations, and relaxation exercises.
The app allows you to monitor your daily activities, mood, sleeping patterns, and health.
It also provides regular challenges that motivate you to reach your health goals and maintain control of your recovery process.
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Users can record their thoughts and feelings to analyze their behaviors and thinking patterns.
Pacifica also provides a supportive community of people suffering from similar mental disorders.
The app is available for free for both iOS and Android users.
Best uses for Pacifica: Stress, anxiety, depression
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder triggered by a terrifying event. (17)
It is characterized by nightmares, flashbacks, and severe anxiety.
PTSD Coach is an app that assists people suffering from PTSD.
This award-winning app has been downloaded more than 100,000 times by people in more than 70 countries.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs developed this app specifically for veterans experiencing symptoms of PTSD, but it is also available free of charge for civilians on both iOS and Android devices.
While the app cannot clinically diagnose PTSD, it consists of a self-assessment tool that is beneficial for tracking and managing symptoms.
PTSD Coach provides the location of the nearest treatment center, as well as an immediate contact with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in case of emergencies.
It also allows you to store contacts to use for personal support.
Research conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs noted that 90% of veterans of all ages found the app helpful. (18)
If you don’t have a smartphone, you can still get the same help with the PTSD Coach Online version.
Best use for PTSD Coach: Post-traumatic stress disorder
Over one million people have signed up with Talkspace, an app designed to make talk therapy more affordable and readily available.
Talkspace connects you to one of their 1,000+ licensed therapists, making the entire process convenient and confidential.
Users are matched with a licensed therapist, according to their condition, after a free consultation.
They can then contact their therapist via chat messaging at any time.
The app features therapists who specialize in anxiety, phobia, PTSD, domestic violence, and depression, among other disorders.
There is also an upgrade for couples therapy.
Talkspace is free to download on iOS and Android devices and provides access to public therapy forums.
You can discuss your issues with a private counselor via text or in a personalized, secure chat room for an affordable subscription fee.
Best use for Talkspace: Anyone who can benefit from talk therapy
Mental Health Apps: The Bottom Line
Mental health issues are widespread, though, for a variety of reasons, many people never seek help.
There are many mental health apps that claim to help users with common mental disorders.
In this article, we have focused on some of the best options currently available.
They can be an important part of your journey to better mental health.
Note: These apps, while they can be very helpful, are not a substitute for professional health care guidance and treatment.
About the author
Ashley Rosa is a freelance writer and blogger. She loves to write articles related to the latest trends in technology and sometimes on health tech as well. Currently, she is associated with BrainTest Review Team. You can find her on Twitter: @ashrosa2.