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- Best for community support: TalkLife: Mental Health Support Network
- Best mood tracker: Daylio Journal
- Best artificial intelligence app: Youper
- Best for establishing healthier thought habits: What’s Up?
- Best mindfulness resource: Sanvello: Anxiety & Depression
- Best gamified option: Happify: for Stress & Worry
- Best for tracking progress: CBT Tools for Healthy Living, Self-Help Mood Diary
Depression affects everyone differently. Whether you’re experiencing deep depression, loneliness, grief, or extreme stress that’s impacting your health, it’s important to have easy access to help when you need it.
The perks? No insurance, traveling, or appointments are necessary. Discretion and convenience are key.
If you’re interested in exploring new ways to manage your mental health, check out our picks of the best depression apps.
Depression is a mood disorder. Oftentimes, people with depression experience chronic sadness and have a hard time accessing or expressing joy.
While occasionally feeling low or down is part of the human experience, depression is more pervasive and is considered a serious medical condition.
While depression can present differently in each person, here are a few common symptoms:
- feeling sad, hopeless, or empty
- decreased energy
- sleep difficulties
- frequently feeling annoyed or angry
- loss of interest in hobbies and interests that you once enjoyed
- difficulty concentrating
- appetite or weight changes
- chronic physical pain, like headaches, digestive problems, and cramps that doesn’t subside with treatment
- thoughts of suicide or self-harm
Some of the common causes of depression are family history, hormone or chemical imbalance, trauma, and substance use. Certain medical conditions can also increase a person’s proclivity toward depression.
Depression apps aren’t for emergency situations
If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
You can also call 911 for mental health emergencies.
There are different kinds of treatment for depression depending on the severity of the condition. These treatments can be used alone or together as part of a comprehensive plan. As with any other medical condition, it’s important to get professional help instead of relying on self-diagnosis or trying to will your way through a bout of depression.
Here are three of the most utilized treatment options.
Talk therapy is one of the most common treatments for depression, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
In a CBT session, a therapist will help you identify unhealthy thought patterns and guide you toward understanding how these thoughts influence your behavior and the beliefs you hold about yourself and your life.
Other forms of therapy used to treat depression include:
- dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which focuses on accepting uncomfortable or harmful thoughts
- psychodynamic therapy, a form of talk therapy that focuses on overcoming trauma from childhood experiences
The most commonly prescribed antidepressant medications are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
SSRIs work by increasing the availability of the neurotransmitter serotonin, the brain’s natural mood stabilizer. SSRIs are typically well-tolerated and tend to have few side effects.
Examples of these medications are escitalopram (Lexapro) and sertraline (Zoloft).
There are other types of medications for treating depression, such as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which work by increasing the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine (a chemical that works as both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter) in the brain.
Medications that are noradrenaline and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs) can also treat depression by increasing the levels of dopamine and noradrenaline, which is vital to the fight-or-flight response, in your brain.
An example of an NDRI is bupropion (Wellbutrin).
For mild or seasonal depression, sometimes making lifestyles changes can alleviate feelings of sadness and emptiness. Taking care of yourself by eating well, getting enough sleep, and prioritizing your own needs can impact depression.
Spending time outside can give your body much-needed vitamin D, which is known to impact mood and your overall well-being.
Exercising for at least 30 minutes every day can also boost your body’s production of endorphins (hormones that improve your mood) and help alleviate depression symptoms.
Avoiding alcohol and other substances is also advised, since they can make both depression and anxiety worse over time.
To choose the best depression apps, we considered many criteria, including:
- user-friendliness of each platform
- options of services provided
- positive reviews
Best for community support
While a digital community is not a replacement for seeking professional help, apps like TalkLife can bridge the gap while you’re waiting to see a therapist or to get additional support in between sessions.
For a safe space to talk openly about depression with others, TalkLife offers connection and community support similar to group therapy.
A caring community of thousands of people is waiting to talk, listen, and help you feel a little less lonely. If you’re concerned about privacy, anonymous sharing is an option too.
Best mood tracker
Ever notice that your moods tend to fluctuate at certain times? Daylio can help you pinpoint these trends sooner so you can make the adjustments you need.
Within the PIN-protected app, you can use graphics to detail your daily activities and moods, then watch the app churn out stats and trends to help you understand your mood better.
Reminders ensure you keep up with your tracking and journaling activity.
Best artificial intelligence app
App developers harnessed the power of artificial intelligence in this assistant for managing depression.
Here’s how it works: Chat back and forth with your assistant, who asks prompts that encourage you to think about your thought patterns and behaviors.
The app walks you through techniques you may need at the moment based on your responses. It then summarizes your conversations and interactions into insights to help you understand more about your emotional well-being.
Best for establishing healthier thought habits
What’s Up? is more than just a diary and habit tracker.
Drawing from CBT and acceptance commitment therapy, it helps teach you dozens of coping mechanisms — including grounding exercises and breathing techniques, plus, how to recognize distorted thought patterns, such as catastrophizing and black-and-white thinking.
The app’s forum also gives you a place to connect when you’re needing some extra support.
Best mindfulness resource
Sanvello is a mindfulness app that can help you identify your feelings or troubles, then move toward acceptance and peace. Designed by a psychologist, the app has been met with high praise for its design and ease of use.
You can expect to practice helpful techniques, such as visualization, mindfulness meditation, and muscle relaxation, all while nature soundscapes nudge you toward relaxation and calm.
Best gamified option
Games make everything a bit more fun. And when you’re feeling depressed, fun may be exactly what you need.
With an eye toward improving your mood for now and building resilience for later, Happify’s evidence-based games and activities borrow from positive psychology, CBT, and mindfulness.
If levity is what you need to help you find perspective, and empowerment, this app is for you.
Best for tracking progress
CBT is all about becoming an active participant in your behaviors, whether you want to become more aware of them or change them for the better.
This app gives you diaries and logs to track your moods, activities, and daily goals. That way, you can actively see your progress or correct unhealthy habits or thoughts that you may not even realize are interrupting your progress toward a healthy life.
You can also track how well you’re doing and receive points for the healthy habits and activities you accomplish each day.
How effective are depression apps?
Depression apps can be great for identifying your feelings, tracking mood patterns, journaling, finding community among other people with depression, and finding a trusted therapist to talk with.
Can depression apps replace therapy?
No. While depression apps can be a helpful component of a treatment plan, they cannot replace the skills and education of a therapist.
What should you do if you think you’re depressed?
Talk with someone right away. If you don’t have a therapist, you can consult a primary care physician about your mental health, and they can direct you to resources for finding a professional to talk to.
If you don’t have a physician, talk with a trusted friend or family member who can help you research therapy options.
Depression doesn’t need to define who you are. By acknowledging how you’re feeling and understanding that you need help, you’re already on the path toward relief from the pervasive sadness and emptiness that depression can bring.
In addition to medication and talk therapy, a depression app on your phone can be a great resource for tracking your moods, jotting down your feelings, or connecting with others. Think of these apps as tools in your toolbox for improving your mental health.