If you suffer from a mental illness like depression or anxiety, know that you are not alone: In a given year, about one in five US adults – or 43.8 million – experience mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But there is hope, and help.
Even though some experts believe that our increasing reliance on technology can breed more chances for mental illness to develop, there are ways that technology can help those with mental illness deal with their symptoms, such as mental health apps.
Although they are not a substitute for actual health care, the following apps are helping many users cope with their illnesses and get back to the business of living – for free.
7 Cups - Online Therapy for Anxiety and Depression
Feeling isolated? Connect instantly with one of 160,000 trained volunteer listeners and licensed therapists with 7 Cups. The app engages users in anonymous, free, confidential conversations so you can vent about your day or simply hear a human voice. It also gives the option to connect with multiple users and to participate in guided discussions in group support chat rooms.
RR: Eating Disorder Management
Those battling anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder can work towards establishing a healthy relationship with food via Recovery Record. Using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and self-monitoring research, the app can help users record their meals, thoughts and feelings as well as customised meal plans, recovery goals and coping tactics.
Mental illness is not a game, but the app SuperBetter tastefully takes a gaming approach to managing depression, anxiety, chronic illness and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Players earn rewards for completing real-life exercises that help them build positive skills and behaviours like resilience and optimism.
Although PTSD Coach was created with US military veterans in mind, it may be beneficial for anyone suffering from PTSD. It offers education and insights about the disorder itself as well information about professional care options. Interactive elements include a self-assessment exam and coping tools such as positive self-talk and anger management exercises.
Moodpath: Depression & Anxiety
Moodpath, which bills itself as "your mental health companion", screens users for depressive behaviour via daily questions designed to increase their awareness of their thoughts and emotions. After 14 days, the app will generate a report about your condition that you can bring to a mental health professional for discussion. More than 150 videos and exercises are available, too.
Pacifica for Stress & Anxiety
When anxiety has you tight in its clutches, it can feel like your world is going to end. But Pacifica helps users find a place of peace via psychologist-designed tools. Based on CBT, mood and health tracking, relaxation and mindfulness meditation, the app targets the on-going cycles of negative thoughts that lead to anxiety, stress and depression.
Last fall, Pear reSET became the first FDA-approved prescription app for substance abuse. The "mobile digital therapy" provides a series of interactive lessons to be used over a period of 12 weeks. It features short quizzes, virtual rewards and weekly check-ins to ensure progress. Note that reSET requires a prescription to access.
If you have never meditated before or find it difficult, Headspace is a great place to start. The popular app takes you by the hand and leads you through guided meditations and mindfulness techniques to help establish calm and wellness in your life. The free basics course teaches you meditation fundamentals; the full library is accessible via a subscription fee.
Anxiety Relief Hypnosis
Anxiety Relief Hypnosis promises to target the subconscious thoughts that lead to anxiety via the power of hypnosis. It features audio read by a certified hypnotherapist, accompanied by peaceful ambient music. After daily use for one to three weeks, users may experience less stress and more relaxation.
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