What are the best apps for anxiety?

Martha Neary, PsyberGuide

There are lots of apps out there for anxiety - I searched to find five which are grounded in evidence-based practices. General best evidence-based anxiety treatments are exposure based - you’re exposed to the thing that makes you anxious, and over time, your anxiety response decreases. Psychoeducation and relaxation may also be helpful when used in combination with other treatments. Here are five of my favorite apps for anxiety.

ReachOut Breathe

ReachOut Breathe is a really simple app - it’s main purpose is to help you with slow down and control your breathing. When we feel anxious, our heart rate quickens and our breathing can change; we may take short, shallow breaths. When we slow down our breathing, this can help slow down heart rate and help us recover from the symptoms of stress and anxiety. I really like how simple this app is; if I’m feeling anxious, I can use it for just a few minutes, wherever I am, and it can provide some immediate relief.

Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM)

This is one of the only apps I’ve come across that walks you through the process of exposure therapy. The app encourages you to think of situations which make you anxious, imagining the details of the situation and how you would act, think and feel. You’re encouraged to start with low anxiety situations, progressing to slightly more anxious, to record anxiety levels before and after, and explore what helps your anxiety levels. The app also contains psychoeducation and relaxation exercises.

Pacifica

Pacifica has a bunch of different features which you might find helpful - including goal setting, mood tracking, and activities to help you reframe negative thinking. The main thing I like about Pacifica as an anxiety app is it’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) meditation. PMR has been shown to help with the physical symptoms of anxiety - those butterflies in your stomach, for example, or tightness in your muscles. There are also meditations for specific stressful situations, for example school stress or social anxiety.

MindShift

MindShift offers tools to cope with specific types of anxiety - it can be tailored for social fears, worry, panic, test anxiety and performance anxiety. Once you’ve chosen the situation you’d like to tackle, the app walks you through three stage: facts about the anxiety, checking in with yourself to see how much this anxiety is impacting you, and making a plan to deal with the anxiety using various thinking strategies and coping skills. What I really like about this app is that the strategies and skills are very specific to the type of anxiety you’re dealing with, and the app offers practical tips and steps you can take to help you cope.

MoodMission

MoodMission can be used for either depression or anxiety, and gives you challenges or “missions” based on how you are feeling. Missions may be physical (e.g. walk up and down the street), thought-based (e.g. coping statements), behavior-based (e.g. learn how to knit, crochet, or sew), or emotion-based (e.g. instant message a friend). For each mission, you can learn why the activities might help decrease your anxiety. Aside from the beautiful interface, I love that missions are mostly quick and easily-achievable, which gives makes me feel accomplished in a short amount of time.

If you’d like to explore more apps that may help with anxiety or other mental health issues, visit PsyberGuide.org.

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