We’ve gathered together a selection of the best apps for Android and iOS that can help you manage, control and avoid anxiety and panic attacks.
Anxiety has psychological symptoms – feelings of panic, a racing mind and feeling afraid – but also physical symptoms: your heart rate quickens, and your breathing can become faster and shallow.
You may feel faint or dizzy, sweat, feel tingling in your hands and fingers, or suffer from a headache or stomach ache.
The methods of managing a panic attack can also vary between people – you may prefer breathing exercises, meditating, using a stress ball, counting or focusing on a pattern.
No app can replace the guidance and advice of a professional, but for mild to moderate panic attacks and daily anxiety levels these apps can give you the tools to help yourself.
Stop Panic & Anxiety Self-Help is available for free on Android, and uses Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) techniques to help if you’re suffering from a Panic Disorder. It concentrates on managing the symptoms of anxiety with audio recordings to help you relax, along with Panic Assistance sessions to talk you through any panic attacks by focusing your attention.
The audio sessions include Mindful Grounding, so you can focus on your immediate environment rather than feelings of panic, 50 tools for Exposure Methods, so you gradually learn to cope in stressful situations, and sessions to improve your rational thinking. Colour therapy is used, so you associate certain colours with specific emotions and improve control by imagining the colours flowing through you.
There’s also an Anxiety Diary so you can monitor your symptoms over time. Over seven screens you select the emotions and intensity that you experienced, how distressed you were, your thoughts, and irrational beliefs. The app then uses CBT to repeat rational statements, to challenge your irrational fears until they become weaker.
The Worry Box Android app is another free app from the same developers, and encourages you to find practical solutions for your anxiety. Each of your concerns is rated on whether it’s important: “will it affect your life to any great degree?” and is it controllable: “is there anything you can do about it?”.
If your worry is important but can be controlled there’s a diary function where you can select Worry coping statements such as “I can tolerate this, it won’t be forever”, “Once doesn’t mean every time”, and “I can’t control everything”. Regular use of these challenging statements can train your brain to think in a less reactive way.
For any worries that you can’t control, you can add your own rational statements to help you cope.
Calm for Apple and Calm for Android offers help with one of eight goals, including Better Sleep, Improve Focus and Learn to Meditate. If you select Reduce Anxiety. An annual subscription to the guided meditations costs £2.99 a month, but there are also five free features available; the most simple is a circular animation for breath control that can help with a panic attack. You can adjust the timing for between four and eight breaths per minute, and you can set reminders to complete a mindfulness session every day.
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Inner Balance app, free (requires HRV sensor, around £160)
Inner Balance for Android and Inner Balance for Apple is designed to help people who use breath control and monitor their heart rate to manage panic attacks. It works with the BlueTooth HeartMath HRV sensor that clips onto your earlobe and measures your heart rate (and a Lightning connector for iOS devices is also available).
It recommends three sessions a day, for between three and five minutes, which will help you synchronise and restore your emotional balance. From monitoring these results it will give you feedback on your heart rhythms, training you out of ‘fight or flight’ and into calm.
Fast Calm for Apple uses visual exercises to help you control your breathing, focusing your attention away from feelings of panic and worrying thoughts. You follow a dot around the screen starting at the bottom, breathe in as the dot moves upwards and then hold your breath as it goes across the top. As the dot goes down you breathe out, and then hold your breath again as it moves along the bottom.
The speed of your breath is adjusted with the + and – buttons, and there’s a series of attractive landscapes scenes to look at that change after each sequence of breathing. It’s simple but effective.