4 apps to boost your mental health

| Emily Delzell

Among people with psoriasis, about 24 percent have anxiety and about 10 percent have clinical depression, according to research. Studies show people with psoriatic arthritis have even higher rates of mood disorders, finding a third have anxiety and about 22 percent have depression. When used with appropriate care, apps can help people cope with mood problems, says Steven Chan, M.D., MBA, a clinical informatics and digital health fellow at University of California, San Francisco.

“A psychotherapist can provide guidance, activities, and behavioral interventions,” he says. “Finding apps that take on the role of this coaching can be supremely helpful. For instance, we may prescribe meditation. Traditionally, this would come in the form of in-person classes, written transcripts, and audio recordings. Apps can provide a portable, interactive way to step through these exercises.”

He recommends looking for apps created by reputable institutions and backed by scientific evidence, cautioning that many aren’t.

“Quite often, the development of these apps doesn’t involve physicians, psychotherapists, or even any research background,” says Chan, who is part of an American Psychiatric Association task force evaluating mobile apps.

Happify is one app to which research scientists and practicing clinicians have contributed to the design. It uses games and exercise to help decrease negativity and build positive thoughts.

Chan recommends the suite of Intellicare apps that are part of a U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded trial. The 14 apps target common causes of depression and anxiety, including sleep problems, inactivity and obsessive thinking. They include:

Worry Knot gives you a guided tool to address specific problems you can’t stop thinking about, as well as tips for coping with issues such as “tangled thinking.”

Slumber Time tracks how well you are sleeping and takes you through a nightly bedtime checklist to clear your mind before going to sleep. You can also use it as alarm clock that wakes you with your choice of music or natural sounds. 

Purple Chill unwinds stress with relaxation and meditation exercises, as well as short recordings that give you tips for mindfulness in your diet, body awareness and more. 

Download the individual apps or the entire suite for free onto Android and Apple devices at the Google Play store or onto your computer.

 


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