The rise of smartphones, apps and social media have undoubtedly caused levels of anxiety to rise dramatically.
As we spend more time on our phones away from our family and friends, it’s natural that we feel more lonely, anxious and depressed.
Plus, having a smartphone means you are connected to the negative news cycle, as well as to constant comparisons to your peers on social media, who only show the best pictures of themselves.
While it’s somewhat ironic to search for anxiety relief using the very smartphones causing increased stress, there are still some great apps out there to help you manage anxiety.
The apps for anxiety are organized below in two general categories:
- General apps teaching mindfulness, relaxation, self care, and soothing skills. These skills are useful for everybody to learn more about! These are for everyday anxiety.
- Specific therapeutic apps for extreme anxiety, including anxiety disorders, that teach empirically-based scientific approaches to reduce anxiety. These are for anxiety disorders.
In my experience as a counselor and as someone who has dealt with social anxiety and social awkwardness myself, I believe that we need to distinguish between general anxiety versus extreme anxiety.
For example, if you’re struggling with clinically-diagnosed General Anxiety Disorder, odds are high that basic training in mindfulness from a general calming app won’t solve your problems.
You’ll most likely need to have very specific tools from a therapist or counselor to target some of your distorted thoughts or other symptoms.
This is where the second section about therapeutic apps based on proven scientific approaches to help cure intense forms of anxiety can be useful.
For example, one app teaches an extremely specific ‘self monitoring’ technique based on the proven science of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
In addition to these two categories of apps for anxiety, I’ll also address these questions down below:
- What apps help with anxiety?
- What is the best way to treat severe anxiety?
- What’s the best way to treat anxiety naturally?
Please note that the below list does mean that you can simply use these apps by themselves to cure anxiety. It’s always a good idea to work alongside a mental health professional because working through these anxious thoughts can be exhausting!
What Apps Help With Anxiety?
This first section will deal with general anxiety, and then the next section will address intense anxiety.
1 – Insight Timer
I’ve been using Insight Timer for years now and it’s entirely free.
I primarily use this app to time my meditation sessions. The Insight Meditation Timer has a variety of bells, background sounds, and other useful settings that most meditation timers don’t have.
But best of all there are over 70,000 free guided meditations.
For example, one of the most powerful tools to de-stress is called ‘progressive muscle relaxation’. This technique is evidence-based and there are over a dozen different guided meditations on Insight Timer that teach this technique in various forms.
2 – Calm
Calm is perhaps the most popular anti anxiety app out there. Numerous celebrities like Lebron James have said they use the Calm app and I can see why!
It has over 40 million users and is the first mental health meditation company to have a $1 billion dollar evaluation.
I’ve tried the Calm app myself and loved it. It has an extremely simple interface which I love and guides you easily to great guided meditations, breathing exercises, sleep sounds and much more.
The one downside to the Calm app is that after a week or so you’ll need to pay about $70 per year.
3 – Sounds True
If you’re looking for a one-stop place to manage mental health in all areas of life then look no further then Sounds True.
I’ve been a big fan of Sounds True for years and oftentimes I will use their vast database to find great materials on a variety of subjects.
For each sub-category of mental health subjects, you can find books, mp3s, videos, podcasts and much more.
It’s really the largest collection of stress-reducing materials out there on the internet.
Let’s now switch gears and start talking about other apps to help with more severe forms of anxiety. And then we’ll come back to the app I think is best overall.
What Is The Best Way To Treat Severe Anxiety?
Severe anxiety is best treated by the science of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
While there are other mental health approaches to help with stress, I specifically stick with CBT because it’s very simple, is evidence-based and has been shown to be highly effective.
Here’s a meta-analysis research paper looking at CBT and anxiety. Plus, here’s another study involving the National Center for Telehealth which shows that CBT can be effective over the phone, and that success is still possible.
The conclusion of the study goes like this:
“Findings demonstrate that CBT is a moderately efficacious treatment for anxiety disorders when compared to placebo.”
Now I know that ‘moderately efficacious treatment’ doesn’t sound all that appealing. However, please note that scientists only rarely even say that something is effective!
Oftentimes scientists say there may be a chance that something is effective.
However in this case the scientists say definitively that CBT works. Now will it make all your problems go away? No of course not, but your problems will definitely be less and you will see definitive progress.
All the tools listed below are based on CBT.
Here’s a bit more background info on CBT:
In CBT, a hallmark practice is recording your thoughts so that you can examine your thoughts.
This can really help your mental health because oftentimes we have subconscious distorted thoughts that guide our actions but which aren’t true!
For example, you may subconsciously think to yourself that in a social situation that you’ll be:
However in most cases if you can write down your thoughts beforehand you’ll see that many of your thoughts are simply wrong!
In the case of the ‘rejection’ thought, you may subconsciously fear that ‘if I ask this girl out, then she’ll say no, and then she’ll tell all her friends, and the whole school will laugh at me.’
If you can write this thought out, or use an app, then you can easily spot how silly this thought is. Is asking someone out really going to cause the whole school to laugh at you? No!
If you’d like more info on CBT, please see my article here, otherwise move on to these other great anti anxiety apps!
4 – MindShift
MindShift is a great free app that is explicitly based on CBT.
MindShift is also well designed with a friendly interface and specifically targets problems such as:
- General Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Attacks
- Performance Anxiety
What I love most about this app is that it really brings the depth of CBT to life! There are so many CBT tools in this app that help extreme anxiety, such as:
- Quick tools to help you shift
- Thought journals to note your worrisome thoughts and reframe them
- Coping cards with helpful and motivational statements
- Manageable steps to overcome your fears in small steps
- Belief experiments where you can set up mini experiments to test your beliefs and see which ones are false
#5 – Worry Watch
Another app based on CBT, Worry Watch is perhaps the best free app for worrisome thoughts out there.
The only downside to the Worry Watch app is that it is only available on iPhones and iPads and doesn’t support Android.
While this is a significant drawback, it’s the overall package that the Worry Watch app offers that makes this the best app for anxiety.
This free app has a ton of great mental health tools to help users, including:
- Recording and writing down your worrisome thoughts
- Reflecting on those thoughts and if they were true or not
- Analyzing your thought patterns
- Refuting your inaccurate thought patterns
Worry Watch offers just these 4 tools to record, reflect, analyze and refute. The way they present their tools is straightforward and practical.
6 – Blue Heron Panic Away
So far I have not talked about a specific, very common, and extreme form of anxiety – panic attacks.
I first saw a panic attack back in college when a friend of mine got a bad grade and began screaming and crying and wasn’t able to move for what seemed like hours.
They were hyperventilating and it was bad. Since then I’ve seen numerous other panic attacks, talked with people who’ve had panic attacks, and I’ve even had one or two minor ones myself.
They are not fun. You struggle for breath. It feels like the whole world is collapsing.
Even worse is if you get these panic attacks on a regular basis. It’s very common for individuals to actually get panic attacks simply because they are afraid of getting a panic attack!
If you need explicit, specific training on overcoming panic attacks then I highly recommend this option.
I remember learning in my graduate studies for counseling that 33% of treatment success for panic attacks was due to teaching clients breathing techniques like deep breathing.
You’ll learn these techniques and much more with Blue Heron.
Finally, I’d like to end this article on a different note.
If none of the above resources have interested you, then perhaps you are more inclined to deal with your anxiety using a natural method.
What Is The Best Way To Treat Anxiety Naturally?
Here are a variety of easy to use self help tools you can try.
These coping strategies are often termed ‘self-care’ and you may have heard of them before.
In general the idea is that anxiety will die away in about 10-20 minutes if you let the anxious energy pass through your body without making things worse with catastrophic thinking.
All of these activities listed below are self-help activities. You can do each of these for 10-20 minutes while the anxious feelings in your body rise and then fall away:
- Go on a brisk stroll
- Take a hot shower
- Listen to music
- Call a friend
- Journal your feeling in a notebook
- Play a boardgame
- Do art
- Wash the dishes with hot soapy water
- Watch funny cat videos on youtube
- Try yoga
I think you get the point. These are time-tested ways to soothe yourself and calm down.
Please note that if you struggle with a severe form of anxiety, it’s likely that you’ll need to combine these self-care strategies with more in-depth training. That’s why I listed those mental health apps above after all!
With that being said, let me know in the comments below, what is your way of calming down?