A lot of these apps use Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques to educate patients with anxiety or depression how to identify negative thinking patterns and the sources that may trigger or worsen their condition. Other apps use simpler techniques, such as meditation or relaxation, which can also be useful in treating anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional difficulties.
None of these apps, however, should be used to replace the conventional therapy. They can be used only as a supplement.
Here are some of them that patients with anxiety or depression may find useful.
Self-help Anxiety Management (SAM) is an example of how good app for patients with anxiety and depression should look like. It's been developed by a team of psychologists, computer scientists and students from University of the West England with a goal to provide a wide range of techniques for people who want to learn how to manage their anxiety in an engaging way, with the help of established self-help methods.
Techniques to manage anxiety featured in this app are detailed and provided in a simple and straightforward manner. Also, a lot of them are being interactive, instead of traditional huge chunks of text that teach patients how to beat anxiety. Users can personalize the app and build their own Anxiety Toolkit of app resources.
Interface and design of SAM app are pretty looking, fast and responsive, made with pleasant pastel color palette.
Although being amazing self-help app, SAM app is lacking advanced tracking options as well professional support to be considered and used as an evidence based app.
Not only adults suffer from mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Children, especially teens, are also affected by these disorders, which increase at an alarming rate among the young population.
The children and teens with anxiety usually cannot stop worrying about things, or imagining the worst case scenarios, they have trouble sleeping and concentrating, and feel uncomfortable when being surrounded by many people, which all could negatively affect their daily life and activities such as school performance, or relationships.
See a psychologist or registered counselor is usually the first course of action. Sometimes, other methods such as self-help resources could be useful depending on the anxiety severity. A lot of these self-help resources are available as mobile phone apps that many teens use on a daily basis and that could help them better cope with their anxiety.
MindShift app, developed by the Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia, is one of those apps targeted at teens and young adults, helping them learn and practice anxiety coping skills by using cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) based guidance and evaluation.
The MindShift app help adolescents learn more about the anxiety and symptoms, evaluate their level of anxiety in particular situations, engage in relaxation tasks, develop realistic thinking patterns, and so on.
Teens and young adults experiencing mild to moderate anxiety symptoms may find this app useful, but only if it's been recommended by healthcare professional.
MoodTools app is similar to Self-help Anxiety Management app. It was created by two Duke Psychology students, with an aim to help users tackle clinical depression and negative moods by using six self-help techniques. Also, the app educates general audience on different types of depression, various treatments, and dealing with the critical situations such as suicide.
MoodTools app is primarily designed as a self-help tool and it works well only as either an educational guide helping users learn more about depression and treatments options, or as a mood diary/tracker. However, it still requires a lot more improvements to be considered a serious self-management tool for clinical depression.
PE Coach App
A lot of military personnel experience anxiety, depression or other mental and emotional difficulties after certain traumatic experience (for example combat). These difficulties are labeled as post traumatic stress disorder, which doesn't only affect war veterans. However, they are the most affected group that has to learn how to combat PTSD and to cope with its effects and consequences.
Common used treatment technique is Prolonged Exposure (PE), which is an evidence-based psychotherapy for PTSD.
Thanks to the efforts of US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), PE Coach app is designed to bring Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy on mobile devices. This app is not a self-help tool, and by itself it's not sufficient to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
However, users with symptoms of PTSD, particularly military personnel, can work together with their therapist to use the tools and techniques provided in this app during their PE therapy to process the traumatic experience and reduce anxiety and fear.
Besides providing a variety of exercises, PE Coach app also allows users to track and record their progress in treatment.
Pacifica app for Android and iPhone is another app built upon principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that provides mindfulness and relaxation tools for managing depressed mood, anxiety and stress.
Pacifica app will first ask users to rate their mood on a 7-point scale. Based on their mood rating, users can choose to address the mood issues with one of four activities provided in the app. These activities or sections include Meditations, Goals, Thoughts, or Relax, which provides users with simple breathing and meditation exercises, choose therapeutic goals and track the progress, record thoughts associated with the current mood rating and use advanced relaxation techniques, as well as visualization and soundscape tools.
The app also contains Health section which can be linked to Apple's Health data (if you use the app on iPhone), which helps users track their caffeine and water intake, sleep, activity, and so on.
Pacifica app is nicely designed and simple to use, thanks to less text-based interaction than in some other similar apps.
Although, it provides a large amount of scientific data that supports the use of CBT for depression and anxiety, the app has not been studied in clinical trials or compared to other similar apps.
Another app designed for soldiers and veterans, but that can be used by civilians as well is T2 Mood Tracker app. This app is designed by The National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2) to help patients track their mood, emotional experience and behavior in order to identify triggers or trends.
The T2 Mood Tracker app is ideal for patients receiving cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to track their mood between visits and share the data with their healthcare providers.
The app tackles six issues sorted in categories: anxiety, depression, general well-being, head injury, post-traumatic stress, and stress.
Users can record their mood in each category by adjusting simple sliders for common mood questions and adding more detailed notes, if necessary.
T2 Mood Tracker app can track this information, which can be viewed in a form of graphs, saved offline or shared with healthcare providers that could also benefit from this app and recommend their patients to try it.