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Most people know they can exercise, eat well, sleep, and stay hydrated to take care of their physical health.

But it’s less common for people to pay attention to their mental health. Just like your physical health, support for your mental health helps you feel your best.

Mental health apps give you tools, activities, and support to help you manage your stress. There are apps available to help with general mental health concerns and specific conditions.

This article covers the 10 best mental health apps of 2021.

Mental health apps are a simple way to work on your mental health.

Mental health apps aren’t designed to diagnose a condition or substitute care from a mental health professional.

Still, they can support your overall mental health. Apps are a convenient way to get extra support between therapy sessions or office visits, and they can offer continued support after graduating from therapy.

Mental health apps provide activities, encouragement, and other techniques to practice daily. Many types are based on research and therapy techniques to provide evidence-based interventions.

Research from 2018 showed that mental health apps may help improve both the monitoring and management of mental health conditions. Further research from 2018 suggested apps work because they’re easy to use, increase engagement in treatment plans, and make monitoring symptoms easier.

When choosing the best mental health apps, we considered the types of features available and if they were evidence based. We also read dozens of customer reviews and considered the cost of the apps.

Best overall

MoodKit

  • Benefits: evidence based, large variety of activities, and a journal feature to easily track your progress
  • Limitations: some users experience technical issues

MoodKit was developed by two clinical psychologists and is based on the principles and techniques used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It offers over 200 activities designed to boost your mood and help change negative thinking.

Included is a journal feature to help you track your mood, negative thoughts, and how you manage stress.

The app is rated 4 out of 5 stars. There’s a one-time expense of $4.99 to purchase the app.

Best for therapy

Talkspace

  • Benefits: directly work with a mental health professional, option to change therapists, and 24/7 access to treatment
  • Limitations: high cost, therapy techniques may be limited, and therapist might not be a good match

Talkspace is the most expensive option on this list, but it gives you direct access to a mental health professional. This online therapy option is likely a more affordable option than seeing a therapist in person, and you receive 24/7 access to support.

There’s a monthly subscription, with plans starting at $65 per week. At any time, you can send your therapist a message in the Talkspace chat room. You also have the option to schedule live video sessions with your therapist.

This app is rated 4.4 out of 5 stars.

Best for meditation

Headspace

  • Benefits: High user satisfaction, affordable per-month price
  • Limitations: Exercises can feel repetitive after heavy use

Headspace is a meditation app designed to help you live more mindfully. The app offers a wide range of meditations for beginners and experienced users, from 3 to 20 minutes.

In the app, you’ll find standalone meditations for when you need a break and longer courses to help tackle a larger problem. Examples of courses include learning the basics, coping with cravings, dealing with distractions, and better sleep.

The app offers a 14-day free trial to introduce you to meditation, after which you’ll have to subscribe to maintain access. The plan costs $12.99 per month if billed monthly or $69.99 per year if billed annually.

Headspace offers a discounted price for students, costing $9.99 per year.

The app is rated 4.9 out of 5 stars.

Best for suicide awareness

Better Stop Suicide

  • Benefits: free, recorded audio to help during stress times, and exercises for boosting your mood
  • Limitations: limited number of activities

The Better Stop Suicide app is designed with psychological techniques to help people who are having suicidal thoughts.

In the app, you can listen to calming audio files written by mental health professionals, record audio messages for yourself, find audio for falling asleep, and save important contacts for when you need them quickly.

There are also gratitude and mood exercises to help you move negative thoughts to more positive ones.

The app is rated 4.7 out of 5 stars. It’s a free app, so anyone can receive help.

Best for stress

iBreathe

  • Benefits: free and easy to use
  • Limitations: only offers one feature, so some people may need to download other apps as well

If you’re looking for a simple way to reduce stress, iBreathe is an easy-to-use app for breathing exercises. Deep breathing exercises may help reduce stress and anxiety.

The app is designed with one purpose: simple deep breathing exercises. There’s no clutter in the app to distract or overwhelm you.

Deep breathing exercises provide the best results when done daily, so you can set the app to remind you when it’s time to do your breathing exercises. After any extra stressful moment, you can open the app for a little stress relief.

The app is rated 4.9 out of 5 stars. It’s free to use. If you would like to remove ads, there’s the option to pay a one-time fee of $1.99.

Best for anxiety

MindShift CBT

  • Benefits: free, designed specifically for anxiety, and uses psychotherapy techniques
  • Limitations: limited number of entries per day for mood and some users experience technical issues

The MindShift CBT app was created to provide anxiety relief using CBT tools to adjust thinking and behaviors. The app claims to help tackle worry, panic, perfectionism, social anxiety, and phobias.

Features include short meditations, thought journals, coping cards, and activities to face fears, change beliefs, and develop healthy habits.

The app is rated 4.3 out of 5 stars. All the features are completely free to use at this time.

Best for addiction

Quit That!

  • Benefits: free, simple, and no limits to the number of habits tracked
  • Limitations: no education or support for quitting and some users experience app crashes

Quit That! helps people tackle habits and addiction. The app helps you track habits to quit smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs, or even consuming caffeine.

Track as many habits as you want, and you can see how long it’s been since you quit and how much money quitting has saved you.

The app is free to use. There’s an option to make a donation in the app to help keep the app free of ads.

The app is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Best for boosting your mood

Happify

  • Benefits: Easy to use, sets achievable goals
  • Limitations: Some reviewers say the deadlines given through app create more stress on the user, paid version is pricey

This app uses games to boost your mood. The activities were developed with positive psychology techniques and CBT interventions.

The app lets you choose games to help you in different areas, including:

  • coping with stress
  • fueling your career success
  • achieving mindfulness through meditation
  • conquering negative thoughts
  • building self-confidence

There are free and paid versions of Happify. The free version gives you access to some games and information. For full access, you need to purchase a plan. Plans start at $14.99 per month.

The app is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Best for eating disorders

Recovery Record

  • Benefits: free to use, links to your treatment team, and more discreet than carrying a food journal
  • Limitations: some users experience technical issues

Recovery Record is an excellent tool for anyone recovering from an eating disorder. The Recovery Record app can be linked to the Recovery Record Clinician App, so your treatment team can easily track your progress and help you achieve your goals.

Features include a food diary to track food, thoughts, and feelings during meals, daily affirmations, coping tactics, goal setting, and more.

The app is completely free to use and is rated 4.9 out of 5 stars.

Best for OCD

NOCD

  • Benefits: Handy for sudden episodes, strong user community
  • Limitations: High price, some users say advice is too general

NOCD was designed to assist in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) treatment by combining mindfulness and exposure-response techniques. The app is backed by research and OCD specialists.

In the app, you can schedule live video therapy sessions with an OCD therapist and receive support between sessions. Other features include a peer community of other people with OCD, personalized treatment plans, and other activities.

You can get started with a free call for the NOCD program. There are different payment plans and the app accepts over 30 types of insurance. The total cost of the program isn’t clearly stated on the website.

The app is rated 4.8 out of 5 stars.

Are mental health apps effective?

Yes, mental health apps can be highly effective in helping people manage some mental health conditions.

However, these apps don’t replace mental health professionals. These apps may be most effective when used alongside work with a therapist.

Are mental health apps evidence based?

Most mental health apps are designed using evidence-based psychotherapy techniques. Not all apps will be, but the apps include on this list were created using evidence-based techniques.

What are the benefits of mental health apps?

Benefits of using mental health apps include:

  • convenience
  • mostly free or low cost
  • improved mood
  • better coping skills
  • access to help whenever you need it

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as exercising for your physical health.

Mental health apps make it easier to practice evidence-based therapy exercises from the comfort of wherever you are.

So, instead of scrolling through social media, consider trying a mental health app to better manage daily stress or mental health conditions.


Ashley Braun, MPH, RD, is a health and wellness writer based in Michigan. Her work helps people understand what affects their health, so they can make informed choices to take back the control in their health and wellness journey.