Can an app really help your mental health? There’s a lot we don’t know about the effectiveness of mental health apps, but some early research is promising.
In one small study, participants with anxiety and depression were randomly assigned one of five popular mental health apps. After six months of use, results were positive across all the options, especially for people who were also in therapy or taking medication.1 This is great news if you’re glued to your phone (like many of us). But please remember that an app can never replace traditional therapy with a professional. If you’re struggling, visit our directory to find a licensed therapist near you.
Of the thousands of apps available to help support your mental health, a handful truly stand out. Here are our favorites for 2023.
Note: Some of these apps are free to download, but others require upgrades or subscription packages to unlock all their features. Several offer free trials so you can get the full experience for a limited time before deciding to commit to the paid version.
Best for healthier thought patterns: Happify
Happify helps you better understand how your thoughts impact your life. The app offers more than 65 bite-size quizzes, games, and activities designed and approved by experts in positive psychology, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It’s a great option if you’re looking to improve the way you handle stress, from helping prevent worry to boosting your self-confidence.
Best for self-awareness: Moodfit
Moodfit is mostly a mood journal that helps you learn how different variables influence your state of mind. As you track your mood, you’ll be able to spot trends depending on the day of week, the time of day, and other factors. You’ll also have access to a gratitude journaling tool, breathing exercises, guided meditations, grounding activities, and assessments for anxiety and depression.
Best for anxiety: MindShift
MindShift helps you manage your anxiety, panic, perfectionism, and phobias through CBT techniques. You can learn how to relax and be more mindful, explore how your thoughts and feelings connect, and see active steps you can take to deal with high-stress moments. The app also has a community space where you can find and offer peer-to-peer support.
Best for depression: Sanvello
Sanvello is designed to help you feel better when you’re down. You’ll be encouraged to check in with your mood and answer a few daily questions to receive personalized suggestions based on clinically proven techniques. You can also follow along with one of many “guided journeys” designed by experts to help you build coping skills and feel more in control.
Best for obsessive-compulsive disorder: OCD.app
Using the power of CBT, OCD.app claims to be able to help you take control of your obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in as few as three minutes a day for 14 days. Each day, you’re presented with a thought and asked to take action. If the thought promotes negative self-talk, you can reject it by dragging it away. If the thought promotes positive or neutral thinking, you can accept it by dragging it toward you. The more you practice, the more instinctive the process becomes.
Best for posttraumatic stress disorder: PTSD Coach
PTSD Coach was developed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs for people who have—or think they may have—posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The app offers educational resources about PTSD, tools for assessing and tracking symptoms, tools for handling daily stress, and direct links to support. If you think you may have PTSD, it’s important to seek help from a professional as soon as possible. PTSD Coach is a good starting point to reach the support you need.
Best for relaxation: Calm
Calm, an app for relaxation, mindfulness, and improving sleep, features a library of guided meditations that focus on everything from anxiety to self-acceptance. It also offers “sleep stories,” 25- to 40-minute tales (narrated by celebrities like Harry Styles) designed to help focus your attention peacefully as you get ready for bedtime.
Best for disordered eating and eating disorders: Recovery Record
Recovery Record helps you work toward your recovery goals and develop healthier eating habits. Your plan is personalized according to your preferences and activity—you can record your thoughts and feelings alongside each meal and link your account with your professional treatment team, if you have one, to receive feedback messages from them.
Best for recovering from addiction: I Am Sober
I Am Sober can be used by anyone who’s trying to quit drinking, smoking, misusing drugs, or engaging in other addictive behaviors. You can use a sober day tracker to visualize your progress, add messages and photos to remind yourself why you quit, analyze your day to find potential triggers, and see how much time and money you’re saving by staying sober. You can also see withdrawal timelines for specific addictions, so you know what to expect as you progress.
Best for supporting your child’s mental health: Moshi
Moshi offers hundreds of interactive activities, stories, meditations, and tools to help kids 10 and under cope better with stress. The audio-only content aims to help children sleep, handle anxiety, calm down, and focus.
Best for helping teens to stop self-harming: Calm Harm
Calm Harm provides activities, techniques, and resources designed to help teenagers end cycles of self-harm and find alternative forms of emotional release. By journaling within the app, teens can identify their patterns and triggers, which may help them avoid relapsing in the future.
Best for soothing suicidal thoughts: Better Stop Suicide
Better Stop Suicide offers self-care tools, activities, and resources for people struggling with suicidal thoughts and depression. One of its key features is the option to record a life-saving message as a reminder of purpose, strength, and hope. The app is designed to help you calm your mind through check-ins, “feel better” task suggestions, and gratitude checklists so you can think more clearly about how you want to move forward. If you’re in crisis, help is available now: Call the free, confidential 988 Lifeline anytime at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Remember: Apps aren’t a mental health solution on their own. If you’re struggling, a therapist can provide the personalized care you need to start feeling better. Visit our directory to find a licensed professional near you.