Links and Apps for MoodSurfing
This is a partial list of apps and websites that we have found useful. Please let us know if you have a favorite that you would like included…
Mental Health Insurance Advocacy
Through his business Psych-Appeal, Meiram Bendat, JD MFT, challenges insurance companies to reimburse health care providers and patients for mental health care. Mr. Bendat has also been active working with professional organizations to file class action lawsuits against insurance companies that appear to be violating the mental health parity laws.
For more about parity – Parity Track
Keeping track of moods is as essential a part of moodsurfing as paying attention to the weather report is for ocean surfing. Before turning to reviews we should note that a recent systematic review of apps for bipolar found them lacking in many important ways… read this blog post first.
Finding Optimism – If you really want to get to the bottom of what causes mood changes and how to manage them, this is your app. Plus it is free and comes with an online version and an iPhone app. You can also share your information with your therapist or psychiatrist. In the most recent version there is a way of emailing these files to the therapist of your choice which is a big step forward. The main downside is that it is so comprehensive that filling it out can seem overwhelming.
Mood24/7 is the site for those who can’t seem to remember to keep track of their moods. This site will automatically send you a text message once a day, all you need to do is draft a one line reply and you are on the way! Plus, you can share your mood logs with your therapist or psychiatrist. The downside, of course, is there isn’t much information stored, but it is a start. The key to success with this application is making sure that the time you choose for the reminder is a time that you will always be able to send in your reply. If you put it off it won’t happen on that day. And Mood 24/7 does not allow you to catch up. It stores the information in your file based on the day you send in your reply (and for those of us on the West Coast, note that after midnight Eastern time your answers are filed under the next day). It will graph your mood based on the single digit number that starts your text response. Enter “6.5 – felt pretty good today” and it will ignore the .5. So choose a scale that allows you to vary your answers from day to day or you the graphing feature won’t be very helpful.
MoodKit is an all in one tool for helping you track mood, monitor negative thoughts, even do a little self therapy. Unfortunately, it is only available for iOS – Mac, iPhone and iPad. A number of psychologists (at least in the bay area) use and recommend this tool to their clients. We haven’t had all that much experience with it so we would love to get comments.
T2 Mood Tracker has an interesting history, originally developed to help troops returning home, it is now used by many people for tracking mood and anxiety symptoms. It is available for iPhone and android and is, of course, especially useful for people with PTSD. It doesn’t allow easy sharing, so it may not be as helpful for working with your doctor.
Google Documents – Here is a home grown version of a mood chart that you should feel free to copy and use for yourself. The best way to get started using it is to go to “Form” and “go to Live Form.” This will show you a way to enter a day’s information, along with instructions. If you like this please make your own copy of the document (otherwise everyone in the world will see what you are writing). Go to “File” and then “Make a Copy.”
Track and Share is a very highly rated app for iPhone and iPad that helps you change behaviors, thoughts, and keep track of your mood and your progress towards goals. It is becoming a community as well as an app.
Moodscope – You describe your mood with 20 quick choices and it will not only show you a graph of how you are doing overall, but it will allow you to share your mood with others, and, if you have the “pro” version (9.99$ a month) you can drill down to see much more detail about how different components of mood interact with each other (does your depression begin with irritability?). If you share the information with your professional (although he or she can only see the overall graph, not the specific responses. We were a bit saddened when the writer of the daily blog posts that you get sent when you sign up moved on, because one of the things we liked best about the program was those thoughtful daily emails that encouraged us to think about mood in a positive way.
Moody Me – This is a popular mood charting app (iPhone and iPad) developed by the folks who run the MedHelp self help forums. The data from your iPhone automatically sync’s with the MedHelp online tracker, and you can print out charts for visits to your doctor. One of the authors of this blog played a role in setting the tracker up, so we are a bit biased in favor of it. But we wish you could give your doctor real time access… most of the time people don’t remember to print out the graphs and bring them in.
iMoodJournal is an easy-to-use, efficient app designed to keep track of lots of details. The longer you use iMoodJournal, the more you can learn from your history. Record moods and emotions, jot down thoughts, and link moods to their triggers using hashtags. The app records sleep patterns and keeps track of medications, so you’ll be more prepared next time you visit your doctor. You can use a password to keep your information private, or share your mood on Facebook. iMoodJournal also comes with a login reminder.
In Flow – Mood and Emotion Diary – If you don’t care for dragging a traditional pen and journal around, then the In Flow Mood and Emotion Diary may be right for you. Track your mood throughout the day and identify what makes you happiest, as well as what might bring you down. The app sends out a daily reminder to make sure you don’t skip any recordings. You also have the option of sharing your mood with friends and cheering other users on for extra support all around.
Moodlytics, Smart Mood Tracker – Moodlytics Smart Mood Tracker app makes mood tracking easy. Input your mood as often as you like, and the app records a chart so you can detect any patterns. You can set goals and record triggers in a private journal. You also have the option of sharing your mood on your Facebook profile to garner the support of your loved ones.
Mood Tracker – Mood Tracker is more than just a mood tracker, it also includes a useful forum, the ability to share your mood tracker with therapists, and others, handy reminders and more. The mood tracking function is particularly useful for people with bipolar as it recognizes the importance of “mixed states” which are often poorly handled by other mood trackers. There is no app but the site is fairly easy to use on iPhone and Android smartphones.
Atlas of Emotions – This isn’t a link to a mood charting application… but it is a wonderful resource that visually presents information about emotions and how they relate to each other… descriptions of basic emotional states, behaviors associated with different emotions… Ideas that may help you think about mood and emotion in your life.
Bipolar and Depression
Jim Phelps’ Psych Education website is a wealth of information on bipolar disorder, especially the “softer” bipolar spectrum of cyclothymia and bipolar type 2. It includes absolutely free the entire text of his great book: “Why Am I Still Depressed?”.
Disorderly Chickadee – We found this website when it was highlighted as a noteworthy WordPress blog in a newsletter that is sent out to people who host WordPress websites. It has quickly become a favorite because of the personal, irreverent and intelligent voice of its author, who is right in the midst of wrestling with the issues of “how to live creatively with moods.” What she has to say is well written and surprisingly free of the usual self promotion of blogs.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) – DBSA was formerly the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association (National DMDA.) DBSA publishes more than two dozen educational materials about living with mood disorders, all available free of charge. In addition, you can find information about your local DBSA organization that may offer self help and support activities.
McMan’s Depression and Bipolar Web – More than 250 articles on all aspects of depression and bipolar, plus news, FAQs, books, forums, and newsletter. All of it written with a quirky, wry, intelligent voice. And the material is not just extensive, but also updated thoughtfully. To give you a sense of who he is (at least in public) here is the title of his new book – Raccoons Respects My Piss But Watch Out For Skunks: My Funny Life on a Planet Not of My Choosing That I Now – Maybe, Sort of, Not Really, Well Okay – Call Home. Check it out.
WebMD Bipolar Disorder Center – This is a big, glossy, site with a fair amount of information. All of it is completely reliable but you may end up feeling as though you are missing something. Everything is a bit too carefully edited. But for the overview of bipolar (there is a companion Depression page as well) it is a good place to start.
Bipolar Disorder Connect – Sometimes what you really need is to connect with other people who live with bipolar disorder. That’s where Bipolar Disorder Connect comes in handy: It’s a support system in an app. This Alliance Health Networks app is designed to let you open up a dialog with others. Jump in on discussions where you can seek answers, and perhaps give a few of your own. You’ll be able to follow others, participate in conversations, and message your friends. Connect with people who “get it” and stay in touch, no matter where you are. In addition to an iPhone app that is highly rated, there is also a website that is a great place for connecting or finding resources or information.
BP Hope is a magazine but it also has a blog that one of my patients strongly recommended. I will be updating this with some more information.
General Mental Health Information
Mental Help Net : home of the oldest and largest online mental health guide and community.
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill : a grassroots, self-help support and advocacy organization of families and friends of people with serious mental illness, and those persons themselves.
National Mental Health Association : This organization has a helpful list of organizations involved in providing support to those with mental health conditions, as well as for family members.
American Psychiatric Association : a medical society, recognized world-wide, whose 40,500 U.S. and international physicians specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional illnesses and substance use disorders.
Pubmed : the National Library of Medicine’s search service that provides access to over 11 million citations in MEDLINE, PreMEDLINE, and other related databases, with links to participating online journals.
Expert Consensus Guidelines: Guides for Patients and Families: This website has the most comprehensive and up to date guides for patients and families with a variety of psychiatric conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, various anxiety disorders, PTSD, etcetera. Some of them are even in Spanish.
Gateway Psychiatric Services: This is the companion blog to this one. It is where we post information that is focused more on medication treatments.
Mind Body Pregnancy: Is a site established by a colleague of mine at UCSF, Dr. Anna Glezer, devoted to providing resources and information about the relationship between mental health and pregnancy.
Mindfulness Links and Apps
Foundations of Wellbeing is a remarkable course designed to teach you how you can change your approach to life so that you avoid the natural bias we all have to focus on the negative. Rick Hanson has put together a science based program that includes lectures, interviews, and interactive content. For more on this course you can read this blog post. Highly recommended.
Insight Meditation Center has a wonderful, and free, six week course on mindfulness that is available as a set of podcasts and handouts.
From that course, we created a short audio file with the instruction from the first week’s lecture on mindful breathing – Mindfulness Meditation Instruction narrated by Peter Forster 12-22-12.
Palouse Mindfulness has created a free, online Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program that was created as a “labor of love” to allow more people to access this program. The author notes that it is more effective to go to one of the many in person MBSR programs, but if you can’t. This is a good way to get started.
Mindful Hub invites you to visit their website for short daily meditations, inspirational essays, and mindful movement exercises that encourage letting go
Omvana comes from the Silva Method of Meditation, and has “mix and match” features and a recording feature that allows you to build your own custom meditation sessions. you can choose from hundreds of guided meditations, inspirational speeches, binaural tracks and much, much more. It also has a web app and is available for both iPhone and android smartphones. The Huffington Post says, “Omvana has become my favorite wellbeing app. Omvana provides 1000 of customizable meditations…They cover subjects such as grounding, inspiration, weight loss, sleep and more. Omvana has changed the way I meditate.”
Buddhify is an iPhone and android app that has an interesting approach to making mindfulness a part of everyday life. The NYT review notes that, “it begins with a wheel of more than a dozen activities such as walking in the city, being online, and eating, and offers guided meditations for each activity. Unlike the seated-with-eyes-closed routine of most other apps, Buddhify 2 cleverly weaves lessons of mindfulness into your daily activities in a way that broadens your experience. The downside is that it doesn’t include a guided introductory program or daily reminders.”
Calm is another iPhone and android app that is a great resource for people who want to incorporate meditation practice into their self care routine. We love the graphics, the soothing instructions and the great choice of sound files that accompany the instructions. Several of the folks we have been working with rave about how the application has helped them to develop a regular meditation practice. A good way of getting started with mindfulness is to listen to the five minute body scan based exercise. Many people notice that if they do five minutes a couple of times in a day the effect is multiplied. We have actually been really enjoying the website itself (Calm.com) which combines narration with music in a way that many people find very relaxing.
Headspace is the “alternative” app that seems to appeal to people who are younger and perhaps “hipper.” There is more narration and the narrator is British. You may either like his accent or be distracted by it. Just as with Calm, the app is available for both iOS and Android phones. And just as with Calm, there is a free version with a limited selection of guided meditations and a (relatively expensive) monthly subscription version with many more options. I recommend that you try both Calm and Headspace and see which one fits you best. You will likely have a strong opinion one way or another.
Equanimity is a serious and full-fledged app designed to chronicle your experience with a mindfulness practice. It does not have a “guided meditation” feature but it does have a number of other functions such as a personal journal to jot down thoughts, advanced timer functions, smart tips to keep up your practice, and more. Think of it as a “training” app for meditation practice, just as you might get a training app to help you with exercise. It is only available for iPhone as of this writing.
Other apps worth noting –
Meditation Timer Free, is simple but powerful, for the meditator who prefers guidance without a guide, you get features like Prepare Time, Cool Down, Intervals, and customizable sounding signals to shift stages within your session.
Breathe2Relax deviates from the rest, as its particular focus is stress management via breathing training. It was developed as part of a government initiative to make stress reduction techniques available online.
Therapy Related Links and Apps
iCBT is an app for iPhone and iPad that can be a great way of boosting the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It gives you coaching between sessions and helps you with the homework that is such an important part of CBT therapy.
DBT Diary Cards and Skills Coach: Created by a licensed psychologist, the DBT Diary and Skills Coach app includes dozens of features designed to enhance your coping skills. In addition to tracking emotions and behaviors, this app includes a reference manual and skill coaching. Other features include reminders, history graphs, and the ability to customize your experience. Through the app, you can email your doctor or set it to automatically update your doctor every week. You can also set a password to protect your privacy.