With the proliferation of mental health issues across the US, many sufferers are seeking alternatives to traditional treatments like medication and in-person Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Mental health disorders are an incredibly personal issue that require tailored, individual treatment. As a result, many sufferers are taking control of their mental disorders through mobile apps.
There are currently over 20,000 mental health apps in the iOS and Android app stores. Some focus on anxiety management, cognitive skills training, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), while others center around eating disorders and self-monitoring. Mental wellness apps have made it possible for individuals to seek help regardless of their condition, financial situation, or other barriers to treatment.
This article gives an overview of mental health within the US and tech industry and discusses ten of the most prevalent mental health apps to use in 2022.
Note that this article discusses topics that some readers might find distressing. Proceed with caution.
Overview of US Mental Health
In the US alone, more than 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health disorder, representing a substantial portion of disabilities within the working economy. Sadly, many people experience multiple conditions simultaneously. This can mean facing an anxiety disorder—the most common mental health issue in the country—along with the added burden of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or an eating disorder.
Despite the prevalence of coexisting mental health issues, few people receive treatment. For example, 63% of generalized anxiety disorders (GADs) go untreated, and this isn’t exclusive to anxiety. Over 4.9 million Americans couldn’t access the care they needed in 2020, partly due to the pandemic.
However, 26.3 million people received virtual mental health care—and mobile apps undoubtedly played a role. This figure accounts for over 8% of the country, exceeding 31% of people suffering from mental health conditions in 2020. In 2022, the mental health app industry is growing at a rate of roughly 20%, indicating that far more than 31% of mental health sufferers are using virtual treatment.
Mental Health Issues Within the Tech Industry
Given the context of this article, it seems pertinent to discuss the disproportionate rate of mental health issues among people in the tech industry. 52% of people working in tech experience depression or anxiety during their lifetime. As many as 13% of these individuals also face physical symptoms, such as headaches, anxiety attacks, and sleep disturbances. One of the most prominent concerns for tech workers is stress—a common cause of long-term mental illness.
What’s Causing the Rise in Mental Health Disorders?
Though the rise in mental health disorders can’t be attributed to just one cause, COVID-19 and social media have had a substantial impact. Let’s take a closer look.
The pandemic was a memorable epoch of the 21st century with long-lasting effects. As COVID-19 broke out and left most of us locked indoors, cut off from our usual lives, global rates of anxiety and depression grew by 25%. While politicians and big businesses agonized over the pandemic’s economic effects, many of us found ourselves isolated and unhappy.
The pandemic hit every demographic hard, particularly young people—a group already known to suffer from feelings of loneliness. Even as restrictions began to lift, 58% of young people reported that they still felt uncomfortable being in close contact with other people. This continued to aggravate the mental state of a cohort already susceptible to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as the immoderate use of drugs and alcohol, self-harm, and excessive social media use.
Excessive Social Media Use
Many researchers and mental health institutions believe that excessive social media use is a serious cause of mental illness. This is largely due to two factors:
- The culture of instant gratification
- Fear of missing out (FOMO)
The instant gratification culture means that users often have lower attention spans and become frustrated when an immediate reward isn’t offered for long-term tasks. Since 2000, attention spans across the board have decreased by over 8.25%. This can cause problems in daily life, particularly at work, which negatively impacts a person’s mental health.
Social media users are also inclined to compare their lives to those depicted by influencers online. This is where FOMO causes issues. Constant exposure to curated images of other people’s lives, often presented as more spectacular than reality, causes feelings of inferiority and lower self-esteem. The stress of social comparison is a well-documented issue that has been shown by numerous studies to cause distress.
How Mobile Apps Are Helping Those with Mental Health Issues
Mental health mobile apps primarily assist users by improving access to care. A mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, is all that’s required to get help whenever and wherever it’s needed. The app features themselves, such as at-home CBT and symptom management, have been shown to alleviate some symptoms of depression and anxiety. But does this mean that mental health mobile apps are a substitute for clinical treatment?
Ultimately, every case of mental illness is unique. Mental health mobile apps are most effective when combined with in-person treatment. Nonetheless, if they can reduce depression and anxiety symptoms outside of clinical settings, they’re a useful tool. While some apps focus on relieving the stress of general and combined mental health illnesses, many are focused on specific conditions.
Top 10 Best Mental Health Apps to Use in 2022
Main focus: mindfulness and sleep disorders
The Headspace website states, “Headspace was started with one mission: to improve the health and happiness of the world.”
The app focuses on meditation and sleep. You might not immediately associate sleep disorders with mental illness, but over 70 million Americans deal with a combination of these issues. In fact, more than 50% of adults who struggle with insomnia also deal with mental health disorders like depression.
- Meditate: Helps users take a daily break for mindfulness, checking in with their feelings and developing the skills necessary to identify and deal with their emotions.
- Sleep: A selection of music, “sleepcasts,” and other audio experiences designed to create a comfortable setting that promotes quality sleep.
- Move: A collection of exercises, such as yoga, intended to train the mind and body—and improve overall well-being.
- Focus: A selection of meditation sessions designed to improve concentration. Meditation is proven to increase focus, thus negating the effects of excessive social media use.
- Wake up: A selection of inspiring stories and “mini-meditations” aimed at making it easier to face the morning fog.
Main focus: meditation
Ensõ is a simple app with a narrow focus: to time and track meditation sessions. 63% of people who meditate report a substantial positive impact on their mental health. So it’s unsurprising that meditation practice has tripled since 2021, with people citing a desire to improve their general wellness as the main reason.
- Meditation timer: Allows users to set a countdown, meditation length, and interval.
- Apple Music integration: Allows users to listen to their own music libraries during meditation, so they can enjoy ambient tracks alongside their mindfulness practices.
- Progress tracker: Enables users to track their meditation progress by number of sessions and total elapsed time.
- Interval bell: Allows users to set an interval bell to go off and give them a short break during long meditation sessions.
Main focus: mood-tracking
The Moodkit app offers a toolbox of mental health coping mechanisms rooted in professional psychology, including therapy aimed at improving users’ daily lives. Moodkit aims to help mental health sufferers participate in “mood-enhancing activities” that change unhealthy thinking while regularly tracking and rating their overall moods.
- Mood-enhancing activities: Unlike many other apps that coach users through mindfulness, Moodkit provides specific steps and activities to help users take control of their mental health.
- Thought checker: Enables users to manage their negative feelings by encouraging them to identify negative thoughts and offering ways to transform and manage those thoughts using various integrated tools.
- Mood tracker: Users rate their moods daily. The app collates and presents this information in 7- to 30-day charts to help users monitor and analyze their moods and thoughts.
- Journals: Provides users with space to keep notes on their moods, which they can share with clinicians for further analysis.
Main focus: mindfulness and sleep
Calm is one of the most widely used mindfulness apps available for iOS and Android. It’s won numerous awards, such as Apple’s App of The Year, Google Play’s Editor’s Choice, and World’s Happiest App. Like Headspace, Calm focuses on mindfulness and sleep with masterclasses targeted toward mental training, and classes based around yoga-like practices.
- Meditation: Helps users learn how to practice meditation.
- Sleep: Offers sleep tracks and access to methods for more restful sleep to help users wake up feeling refreshed.
- Scenes: Provides an ambient soundscape with visuals to help users relax and enter a meditative state of mind.
- Masterclasses: Taught by world-leading experts to help people learn how to meditate.
- Online version: An in-browser version of the app that’s accessible via any internet-connected device.
5. Quit That!
Main focus: addiction
Many people who suffer from mental illness also struggle with addiction, usually as a form of self-medication. However, mental health disorders can also arise due to alcohol and drug misuse. Whatever the reason for substance abuse, it generally magnifies the issues and symptoms of existing mental illness, creating a challenging combination. Quit That! is a mobile app dedicated to helping people overcome and manage their addictions. And it’s not limited to drug and alcohol issues! Users can use the app to help break any unhealthy or undesirable habits—from alcohol to sugary drinks.
- Detailed tracking: A clean and compact dashboard that provides a breakdown of the time since quitting a habit by minutes, hours, weeks, and years.
- Notes: A space where users can log notes about their progress.
- Ad-free: Quit That! is completely free, and without ads.
Main focus: depression, anxiety, insomnia, and eating disorders
MindDoc was developed alongside clinical psychologists and expert mental health researchers. The app offers users an alternative to in-person psychotherapy at their convenience, and it’s been downloaded over three million times. MindDoc offers more than just mood tracking and general CBT. It also provides users with regular mental health assessments and feedback based on an overall health score.
- Mood diary: Allows users to track their feelings in a mood diary with tags and notes. Users can export their diaries as a CSV file for further use.
- Mental health assessments: Collates moods and data surrounding users’ mental health, and presents regular assessments based on a scoring system to help identify symptoms and glean insights into their thoughts.
- Detailed stats: Shows how users’ moods change over time, giving them a clear picture of their mental state.
- Science-based courses: Courses based on clinical and scientific research aimed at helping people understand their mental health and overcome symptoms.
Main focus: depression and anxiety
The Youper app attempts to blur the line between digital mental health service substitutes and in-person treatment by offering video calls with licensed physicians. It also offers 24/7 support via an in-app chat function. Youper focuses mainly on CBT but offers various features that are common to other apps on this list.
- Video therapy: Provides affordable access to video therapy sessions with licensed therapists and doctors.
- 24/7 chat: Youper users can talk with mental health specialists and get the support they need at any time of day or night.
- Symptom monitoring: Symptom- and mood-tracking options to help users keep on top of their emotions.
- Behavior coach: Provides the opportunity to speak with behavior coaches to help combat negative feelings and unhealthy habits.
- Medication delivery: Users can order medication via the app when prescribed by their physicians.
Main focus: therapy
Talkspace is similar to the Youper app in that it’s centered around digital therapy sessions led by mental health specialists. Talkspace allows users to watch video introductions to therapists, and choose one they feel comfortable with. The app also offers a toolbox of coping mechanisms, including exercises for stress relief.
- Online therapy: Provides online therapy sessions and psychiatry options for individuals, couples, and teens.
- Business options: Provides therapy and mental health services to help businesses give their employees the support they need.
- Mental health tools: A mental health tool kit containing scheduled appointments, exercises, and clinical progress-tracking information.
- Check-ups: Free step-by-step mental health assessments to help ascertain the likeliness of underlying mental health conditions.
9. PTSD Coach
Main focus: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD Coach helps users manage symptoms that often appear after traumatic situations. The US Department of Veteran Affairs recommends this app due to its efficacy in supplementing PTSD treatments. While it isn’t a substitute for professional PTSD treatment, PTSD Coach provides information and many valuable tools for sufferers—and it’s completely free of charge!
- Treatment Information: Provides useful information about effective treatment and support options.
- Stress tools: A way for users to monitor and deal with their stress.
- Home screen quotes: Allows users to pin inspirational quotes about PTSD recovery to the home screen as a daily reminder of their progress.
- Symptom tracking: Easy-to-use tools that enable users to track their symptoms and their severity.
Main focus: depression and anxiety
In 2017, MoodMission was named Healthline’s Best App for Depression. It was successfully crowdfunded the same year, reaching its target of $20,000. The app helps users track their emotions and improve their mental well-being using missions and achievements. It also offers practical steps to help users overcome their issues.
- Customized experience: Upon downloading the app, users complete a mental health survey, which is used to tailor activities and courses to their specific needs.
- Missions: Mini-courses containing practical activities and steps users can take to improve their mental well-being.
- Achievements: Tracks progress and awards achievement badges and overall rankings.
Mental health mobile apps can be an excellent way to alleviate some symptoms of mental illness. However, they’re usually best used in conjunction with in-person clinical treatment. To summarize, the apps and focus areas discussed in this article are as follows:
- Headspace – mindfulness & sleep disorders
- Ensõ – meditation
- MoodKit – mood tracking
- Calm – mindfulness & sleep disorders
- Quit That! – addiction
- MindDoc – depression, anxiety, insomnia & eating disorders
- Youper – depression & anxiety
- Talkspace – therapy
- PTSD Coach – post-traumatic stress disorder
- MoodMission – depression & anxiety
If you’re in the US and struggling with any of the issues discussed in this article and/or are in a life-threatening situation, please contact one of the following emergency services that’s most relevant to your situation, or call +1 (800) 273-8255:
- +1 (800) 273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- +1 (800) 799-7233 National Domestic Violence Hotline
- +1 (800) 996-6228 Family Violence Helpline
- +1 (800) 784-2433 National Hopeline Network
- +1 (800) 366-8288 Self-Harm Hotline
- +1 (800) 230-7526 Planned Parenthood Hotline
- +1 (800) 222-1222 American Association of Poison Control Centers
- +1 (800) 622-2255 Alcoholism & Drug Dependency Hope Line
- +1 (800) 233-4357 National Crisis Line, Anorexia and Bulimia
- +1 (888) 843-4564 LGBT Hotline
- +1 (866) 488-7386 TREVOR Crisis Hotline
- +1 (800) 221-7044 AIDS Crisis Line
- +1 (800) 422-4453 The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
- +1 (877) 565-8860 The Trans Lifeline
For international services outside of the US, please see this list from UnitedGMH.
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