Helpful relaxation tools in the palm of your hand.
Behavioural therapy is one of the best treatments for anxiety disorders, however, sufferers often have difficulty accessing this resource for reasons such as high cost, lack of time, waiting lists and the social stigma around seeking help.
With the explosion of technology and specifically “apps to solve any problem” in recent years, it’s no surprise that people are turning to their phones to improve their mental health.
On any mobile app store, you’ll find literally thousands of programs that claim to easy anxiety, from meditation to live chat with licensed therapists – it seems too good to be true.
Apps for anxiety are inexpensive and easily accessible, but do they really work?
Unfortunately for now, research into the effectiveness of apps for anxiety is limited.
One Cochrane review looked at“media-delivered interventions”, which covered written and audio self-help programs as well as internet resources based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy. Experts found that while face-to-face interventions are the best option in most cases, media‐delivered interventions may be superior to no intervention for people with anxiety. They noticed positive effects on symptoms of anxiety, recovery from illness, disability and quality of life.
Although this sounds promising, we must be careful when extending these findings to the (mine)field of mobile health apps.
Cochrane experts caution that the majority of reports included in their review did not disclose the exact nature of media-delivered interventions tested. Any tech company can make an app which touts itself as an anxiety-relief tool, so the quality varies accordingly.
With that in mind, we must look at mental health apps for anxiety with a critical eye. As many program disclaimers state, their apps are best viewed purely as self-help tools and are not a substitute for medical care or mental health services.
From that perspective, programs consisting of meditation guidance, breathing exercise or reflective journaling seem more benign than platforms which connect users with text robots or questionably qualified “listeners” for support during emotional distress.
6 Popular Mobile Apps for Anxiety Self-Help
The following are a selection of popular anxiety apps which have been professionally reviewed by ReachOut Australia, a leading online mental health organisation.
Calm teaches you how to use meditation with a goal to reduce stress and improve wellbeing. Sessions last between 2 and 30 minutes and feature nature scenes and relaxing music.
Happify is a colourful app that provides tools which aim to help with anxiety and negative thoughts.
Headspace offers guided meditation and mindfulness exercises to promote calm.
Pacifica is based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy, meditation and mood tracking and aims to help with symptoms of anxiety and depression.
ReachOut WorryTime is a scheduling app which aims to clear your mind by setting time aside to deal with your worries.
Stop, Breathe and Think is a meditation guide which allows you to check in daily and track your progress.