Many people might not think to turn to their phones to help cope with anxiety and worry, but a growing number of apps are being developed to help people deal with mental health issues. Many of these apps aren’t based on science-backed treatment strategies, making it hard to figure out which ones are useful.
These are some of the apps our team at PsyberGuide like and why we think they might help women better deal with anxiety.
Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM)
Many of the most effective anxiety treatments involve exposure. In exposure therapies, people face situations they usually avoid or that cause anxiety to learn to better tolerate them. Most apps do not include exposure therapy, which makes SAM valuable as it walks people through the process of gradually exposing oneself and mastering these situations is a useful tool to overcome anxiety.
Pacifica is a broad app with multiple features designed to tackle depression and anxiety. It includes tools to help people set goals, track their emotions, and overcome negative thinking. All of these are useful strategies for overcoming anxiety. It also includes meditations that teach Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). PMR is helpful for dealing with the physical symptoms associated with anxiety. Pacifica can be a useful app for coping with anxiety in the moment, or for using over time to learn skills that can be handy later.
Anxiety takes many forms and the role of a therapist is often to tailor effective treatments for each individual patient. Many apps provide general suggestions but overlook the specific issues you might be dealing with related to anxiety. MindShift is a useful app because it focuses on different types of anxiety — social fears, worry, panic, and test and performance anxiety. If you’re dealing with any of these issues, MindShift might be the app for you.
Clue is not a mental health app. It’s a popular menstrual tracking app, but many women have said they find it really effective to help address their mental health. Why? Because in addition to tracking one’s cycle, Clue has useful features that track emotions and mood. This helps users understand their body’s patterns and better identify triggers that lead to anxiety. When using a menstrual cycle app, it’s important to understand there isn’t a direct link between the body’s cycle and anxiety, but if a woman is already using this type of app, it can help them be consistent with entering data, and provides more opportunities to view it.
Understand that none of these apps may be exactly right for you, but that doesn’t mean they won’t necessarily help. No app is going to be useful for everyone, and you might consider visiting the resource we’ve created at PsyberGuide.org to learn more about apps for mental health.
It’s also important to note that apps are not replacements for professional help. They might serve as good stepping stones to care or help supplement the help you’re already receiving.
Stephen Schueller, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychological Science, University of California, Irvine, [email protected]