The Best Chronic Illness Resources 2024

The best chronic illness resources 2024

The best resources for people with chronic illnesses in 2024

Published on April 25th 2024
Written by Jesse Driessen

There are so many different places you can look for help with a chronic health condition; blogs, health organisation websites, public health resource pages, Instagram and TikTok influencers, Facebook Groups, Discord Channels, and Subreddits. The options are endless, so how are you even meant to find the best – or most useful – resources for you?

As someone with chronic health issues, I’ve spent hours/years looking through search results pages on Google and have followed an endless number of spoonies on social media.

On this page, with input from the Bearable community and team, I’ve tried to collate a list of different chronic illness resources that I’ve found helpful on my own chronic illness journey. I just hope that this might make it easier for you to find the most useful chronic illness resources for you.

Chronic Illness Bloggers

The best chronic illness blogs

There are tons of great chronic illness blogs and we recommend that you check as many of them out as possible. Not only to support as many people with chronic illnesses as possible but because they cover such a broad array of experiences that your perfect blog might be different to mine. 

However, there are a handful of blogs that I’ve ended up returning to over the years and these include:

1. Natasha Lipman's Blog

Natasha is a London-based Journalist, Podcaster & Chronic Illness Blogger who previously worked for the BBC. More recently, she’s begun writing on Substack as well as hosting a podcast about living well with chronic illness, The Rest Room.

Natasha’s content mostly focuses on conversations with experts to create resources to help people navigate their chronic illnesses. 

Natasha has a ton of great advice about the benefits of pacing for managing chronic fatigue and chronic pain. Including an article, she wrote for the Bearable blog, back in 2021.

2. The Despite Pain blog

Liz – who writes the Despite Pain blog – has lived with chronic pain for most of her life and her work focuses on sharing insights and resources which make living with pain more manageable.

This includes extensive pages of pain management techniques and resources. Considering that chronic pain is one of the most common chronic conditions, resources like this are a godsend.

If you live with Trigeminal Neuralgia, Coeliac Disease, or Chronic Pain – or even if you’re just looking for more information about these conditions – the Despite Pain blog is the best place to get started.

3. A Balanced Belly

A Balanced Belly is an extensive blog about Crohn’s and IBD by Jenna Farmer. Her articles cover everything from recipes, travel guides, and pregnancy for people living with chronic digestive conditions. There’s even a page of free resources and discount codes which includes e-books and symptom tracking worksheets.

You might also recognise Jenna from the articles she’s written for The Guardian, Healthline, and Happiful Magazine or from the Chronic Illness Communities she participates in on social media.

4. Kate the (almost) Great

Amongst other things, Kate lives with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, anaemia of chronic inflammation, asthma, and chronic pain. For this reason, Kate’s blog covers a broad array of helpful topics including patient advocacy and how to create your own chronic illness blog.

What I most love about Kate’s work is that she’s an amazing advocate for people with chronic illnesses and her blog helps people in the community to better advocate for themselves and others too. 

5. A Chronic Voice

The thing that I like most about A Chronic Voice is that Sheryl – who has lived with Lupus for more than 10 years – extensively documents her experiences with surgery. This includes her advice on managing depression and boredom following surgery. 

However, A Chronic Voice goes much deeper than this and includes insights into the experiences of being a caregiver to someone with a chronic illness and even the experience of returning to school as a person with a chronic illness. If you’re looking for advice for almost any aspect of life with a chronic condition, chances are that Sheryl has you covered.

If you’re a budding chronic illness content creator, A Chronic Voice also accepts guest posts and could be a great way to share your experiences with a bigger audience.

6. Invisibly Me

Invisibly Me focuses less on the lived experiences of invisible illness – although Caz does share regular updates about her rare disease and chronic bowel conditions (and her pets) – and more on managing the realities of life with a chronic illness.

This includes helpful product reviews, information about navigating the cost of living crisis, and a whole section of the blog dedicated to memes and funny videos for those unavoidable days when your symptoms are flaring.

Caz is also an amazing advocate for hidden illnesses and regularly posts about the – unfortunately taboo – reality of living with a stoma.

Chronic Illness Influencers

The best chronic illness influencers

To be honest, this list could be much, much longer but the six influencers recommended below are the ones whose content I keep coming back to. These chronic illness influencers have some of the most honest, relatable, and funniest content, even if they don’t have the biggest following (yet).

1. @dayswithdaninicole

Like many of the other recommendations in this article, Dani is a spoonie who’s combined her experiences living with chronic illness and her skillset (as a physical therapist) to help give back to the community. 

Dani describes herself as a chronic illness mindset coach helping you accept your diagnosis and thrive. For me, this touches on one of the hardest aspects of the chronic illness journey; acceptance of your chronic condition.

Dani’s feed is full of videos that help you to shift your mindset and that’s why she’s one of my favourite chronic illness influencers. 

2. @chronic4u

At a glance, @chronic4u‘s content might look like lots of other chronic illness humour videos you see on social media. However, for every funny, relatable video about living with a chronic illness, Ila also has a video advocating for the spoonie community. 

From highlighting the need for better employment rights for people with hidden illnesses to giving us a behind-the-scenes look at blood drawing. Ila’s found a great balance between entertaining and honest, which is probably why her follower count has grown so rapidly.

She also makes great apparel.

3. @paralysedwithlove

Maddy might not have the most followers but what I’ve always loved about her videos is that they feel like you’re face-timing a friend. 

Whether she’s sharing an update on her recent health struggles or giving an honest look at the day in the life with gastroparesis, Maddy’s ‘straight-to-camera’ style is a nice break from some of the more ‘viral’ spoonie content.

Quoted in a number of her posts, I also love her outlook on living life with a chronic illness; life is tough, but so are we.

4. @thatssochronic

Jess Brien is possibly the busiest chronic illness influencer on this list. She not only hosts her own podcast (That’s So Chronic) but she also performs at the Adelaide Fringe Festival AND watched 52 documentaries in 52 weeks 😂

Since day one, Jess has been on a mission to share her experiences living with chronic pain and her transparent videos about test results and her subversion of social media trends make her one of my favourite chronic pain influencers.

5. @microcatmachine

Allison‘s an inspiration to spoonies everywhere and her content is a brutally honest look at the reality of living with chronic illness. By sharing every detail of her ongoing chronic illness journey, Allison advocates for us all. Helping people to identify symptoms, share support with the community, and spotlight issues with the medical system. If you only follow one chronic illness influencer, it should be @microcatmachine.

6. @gemmacorrel

A chronic illness influencer like no other, Gemma Correl creates incredibly relatable illustrations about living with Anxiety, Depression, and women’s health.

My mental health issues often make me feel incredibly alienated and – more than anything else – Gemma’s illustrations help to remind me that these feelings are universal for other people with Anxiety and Depression. 

Scrolling through her feed is a nice reminder that I’m not alone and that there’s a whole community of people just like me. 

Chronic Illness Resources

The best chronic health resources

Honestly, some of the best resources I’ve found have actually been on chronic illness blogs and social channels. However, there are some organisations that do a fantastic job of providing resources for specific conditions. Especially if you’re just getting started on your chronic illness journey.

1. Mind

This is maybe the most obvious resource to mention but that’s for good reason. For the longest time, the Mind organisation have been providing information and support to people with mental health conditions and – quite simply – that’s why they’re at the top of this list.

As well as a great depth of super accessible information about different mental health issues, they also have a ton of tips for everyday living and advice for how to seek different kinds of support.

2. US Pain Foundation

The US Pain Foundation’s mission is to ’empower, educate, connect, and advocate for people living with chronic conditions that cause pain’ and they’re not messing around. They have programs for everything from advocacy and empowerment, to support and education. 

Their resources page includes 101 information about different pain management options, free mindfulness meditations, and downloadable pain management plans. If you’re living with chronic pain and need some support, The US Pain Foundation is a great place to start.

3. Stuff The Works

StuffThatWorks uses crowd-sourced data from millions of people with different chronic health conditions to identify the most (and least) effective treatments for every chronic illness.

If you’re also looking to identify potential triggers and co-morbidities (i.e. commonly occurring health conditions) this is one of the most useful places to start.

Unlike health articles about your chronic condition, Stuff That Works cuts away the fluff and lets you get directly into the info you want about your condition.

4. The Center for Disease Control (CDC)

This may be another obvious recommendation, but the CDC’s health topics page makes it really easy to look up any chronic health condition and access information and resources about symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and management. These resources include patient toolkits with downloadable PDFs that help you prepare for appointments and keep track of treatments.

Chronic Illness Communities

The best chronic illness communities

Sometimes, the thing you most need as someone living with a chronic health condition is to speak with someone who understands. Whether that’s to get something off your chest, seek some advice, or just find someone to laugh at chronic illness memes with – chronic illness communities can be the backbone of managing day-to-day life with a chronic condition.

1. The Mighty

The Mighty has more than 3.5 million members discussing more than 700 different health conditions. Quite simply, it’s one of the most trusted sources for advice on healthcare because 99% of the content is created by people – like you and me – with chronic health issues. If you’re looking for advice, guidance, support, memes, articles, or really anything at all, it’s probably on The Mighty.

2. r/ChronicIllness

Bearable’s own journey began on Reddit and one of the biggest and most trusted communities is r/ChronicIllness. Plus, because Reddit is anonymous it’s a great place to ask for seek guidance on issues that might otherwise be personal, private, or sensitive. Beyond that, it’s also just a great place to stay up to date on anything happening in the Chronic Illness community.

Once you’re up to speed on r/ChronicIllness, you’ll likely also find other, condition-specific subs such as r/Endo, r/Migraine, and r/Anxiety. All of which are huge communities in their own right.

What's your favourite chronic illness resource?

As with everything else we do here at Bearable, we always want your input on the resources we create. 

If there’s a blog, website, influencer, or really any type of resources that you think should be on this list, please let us know. 

You can get in touch with us to let us know about your own favourite chronic illness resources at support@bearable.app 

Bearable vs. Careclinic [app review]

Bearable vs. Careclinic, which one should you choose?

July 19th 2023.

Bearable vs Careclinic, which one is better?

When you’re looking for help tracking your symptoms, medication, well-being, treatments, medical records, appointments, and a whirlwind of important things for people with health issues, it can be hard to know where to begin. There are a few different symptom-tracking apps, all of which offer slightly different ways to track your symptoms and treatments, view insights into changes in your health, and they all come with their own array of bonus features too. That’s why, as one of the top-ranking symptom trackers, and the only symptom-tracking company founded by someone with chronic health issues, we want to give an honest appraisal of how all of these apps work and how they can help you. Today, we’re reviewing the Careclinic app.

First impressions of Careclinic. 

My first impression is that the app lacks some of the polish and finish of some of the other health apps I’ve used but once you look past this, you realise how many features, tools and resources there are in the Careclinic app! In fact, I soon realised that the team at Careclinic had thought of almost anything that might be helpful and found a way to get it into the app, one way or another. From the ‘speak to a doctor’ feature and the ‘scales and assessments’ page, this feels like they’ve thought about the end to end experience of having a health issue to managing your meds and appointments. I especailly appreciate the fact that I can customise my avatar and – maybe counterintutively – uploaded a picture of my dog. 

Careclinic’s Main Features.

Just like Bearable, Careclinic helps you to track the things that are most important when you’re living with health issues; Symptoms, Moods, Treatments, Medications, Nutrition, Hydration, and anything else that might be improving or worsening your health. These are the main features that stood out to me:

    • Symptom tracking
      Careclinic uses a 1-10 scale instead of a 0 – 5 severity scale which might be preferable for some people. You can also track symptoms using time stamps for more granular insights. However, you can only track three, preset symptoms for free and free users can’t change the time stamp for their symptoms either.

    • Insights
      Similar to Bearable, Careclinic shows you trends and correlations between habits, medications, treatments, and health metrics. However, they don’t have a weekly-trend report, reports with customisable inputs for free users, or a way to compare the impact of an activity across multiple health metrics at once.

    • Bonus features.
      This is where the two apps differ most, Bearable’s bonus features are focused on helping you to identify helpful self-management practices and turn them into goals/habits. Whereas, Careclinic’s bonus features focus on treatment pathways, assessments, and ‘chat with a doctor’ tools that are more focused on helping you follow a more top-down approach to health self-management.

What we like about Careclinic.

    • Journaling prompts
    • 1 to 10 scale
    • Lots of helpful content

There are loads of great things about the Careclinic app and the most notable of them all is the sheer volume of features. From physical exercise guides, medical team info, medical report logs, assessment quizzes, treatment pathways, the list goes on and on. Another thing that might make a difference to you is that symptom tracking is done using a 1-to-10 scale – we’ve deliberately chosen not to use in the Bearable app to help with the accuracy of severity scores – but we understand that some people prefer to use this scale. If that’s you, then Careclinic might be the app for you! Reflecting on your well-being is a crucial part of the health-management journey – especially if you’re going to therapy or managing certain mental health issues – so I’m an especially big fan of their journaling tool and journaling prompts (though you can’t use these without subscribing).

What could be improved.

    • Pushy prompts to buy premium
    • Little thought for design or accessibility
    • Can only track 3 symptoms for free

For everything that Careclinic gets right, it’s let down by some simple things that have a big negative impact on your experience of the app. Firstly, so many of the features are premium that you end up being shown the paywall almost everytime you click on something. This makes it really hard to explore the app and understand all the features. Similar to this, some of the key features are restricted, for example, you can only track three, preset symptoms or conditions for free before you’re shown another paywall. Whilst certain features in Bearable are also paywalled (advanced reports, extra notes, and custom experiments) we made a point of offering a fremium version that lets you customise, track, and even view reports for as many symptoms or conditions as you’d like – totally for free. This might be a bit nit-picky, but something else that bugged me the whole time I used Careclinic was the fact that there’s a lot of carelessness in the design. Text often looks out of place, things are positioned strangely, many of the elements just look very basic. This extends to their being a lot of low contrast elements that might be hard for some users with accessibility needs, such as grey boxes with grey text. This doesn’t limit the use of the app for me but just makes for a slightly less pleasing experience overall. If they’ve cut corners with the design, I also can’t help but wonder what else they might have cut corners on.

Other things to consider about Careclinic.

    • Who’s it made by?
      Careclinic is founded by a serial entrepreneur with a background in media and marketing and doesn’t appear to be actively mission-driven or part of the patient community. By contrast, Bearable was founded by someone with chronic migraines, who’s actively part of the chronic illness community and involves the community in product decisions.

    • How secure is it?
      There’s very little information in Careclinic’s privacy policy about how they handle your data and – whilst this might be because they don’t track your data – they don’t make this clear and I’m left with more questions than answers. I also found that, within the app, whilst I can delete my account, I don’t have the option to delete my data.

    • Is there a community?
      Careclinic has a community built into its website but it appears to be rarely used and is predominantly for bug reporting, support and feature requests. Annoyingly, you also have to scroll past loads of ads to read any of the comments. By contrast, Bearable has two very active communities on Reddit (r/BearableApp) and Discord that are used by over 10k members of our community as well as members of the Bearable team.

    • How much does it cost?
      Careclinic is $59.99 per year and $9.99 per month. That’s $15 more per year and $3 more per month than Bearable.

    • What can I use for free?
      Not very much. In fact, it might even be easier to list everything that isn’t available. The main things that you can do for free appear to be entering up to three preset symptoms (but no notes), entering factors (but you can’t change the time stamps for free), entering up to three medications, viewing guided care plans, and completing health self-assessments. However, you’re not able to track very many symptoms, customise those symptoms, analyse the data you collect for those symptoms, make journal entries about your health, or track all of your medications for those symptoms.

    • Are there ads?
      Not in the app but you’re shown a paywall to subscribe every time you open the app and if you visit their website for support then you’ll be shown numerous ads within the support community pages.

How does Careclinic compare to Bearable?

Honestly, the tracking and reporting tools offered by both Bearable and Careclinic are fairly similar, with the main practical distinction being in the bonus features outside of the main symptom tracking and reporting tools. Beyond this, the one thing that truly appears to differentiate Bearable and Careclinic is their philosophy. Careclinic is run by entrepreneurial “tech experts” that want to help you stick to your care plan. Bearable is run by a person with chronic health issues that wants to help you to find news ways to manage and improve your symptoms and well-being. Ultimately, Bearable’s approach to involving the community in product decisions, its commitment to communicating with users about their needs, and trying to create tools and experiences that help people with health issues – even for free – speaks volumes about the difference in philosophy between the two companies. So, whilst Bearable might not have the sheer volume of features that Careclinic does, it makes up for it by giving you more for free, more considered features, and ultimately tools that help you to find what helps you to manage your own health beyond just the treatment plan prescribed to you.

Our thoughts about Careclinic.

The lasting impression I get from Careclinc is that it’s ultimately not meant to be used for free, they want you to pay for it and they remind you of this constantly. I imagine that if you do use Careclinic Premium, it’s probably very useful as a result of all of the features you’d suddenly have access to. However, I can’t help but feel that Careclinic must not have much of an interest in giving back to the chronic illness community and the people that can’t afford to use Premium. That said, there are tons of great ideas and handy guides and assessments but even these feel a little underwhelming because of the lack of attention to design or how users might experience these tools. Many of these features are shown in random places throughout the app, rather than being prompted at the right time for the user. As a result, it feels like they came up with as many ideas as they could without too much thought for the user experience. Overall, Careclinic feels like it has a ton of potential and would benefit from working more closely with people with health issues rather than taking a colder, clinical, prescriptive approach to their app.

Visual Comparison.

Click to enlarge.

As a member of the Bearable team, I can honestly say that we’re constantly looking at other apps – and speaking to our community about the apps they use – to understand more about what’s helping people to manage their health. Plus, as a person that lives with Depression, Anxiety, Disordered eating, and Insomnia, I’m constantly looking at new solutions that might help me with my own health and well-being. So we thought it made sense to share what we discover about other apps and health-tracking products so that you can make better informed decisions.

First and foremost, we don’t want to write hit pieces about other apps. In fact, we’d encourage people to try all sorts of apps and to use what they find most effective. Our mission is to help people to find what works and if it’s an app made by someone else, then that’s okay with us. We’ll just be happy that you found something that helps you to manage your health better. After all, we’re people with chronic health issues and we know how hard it can be to find something that works.

More than anything, we’re hoping that these reviews help you to make better choices about the apps you use and that – as a result of our experience as app developers – we can help you to identify more than just helpful features. So we’ll also include information about the security, privacy, and credibility of other health and well-being products, so that you know an app is – not only good – but also safe to use before you install it.

If you have any questions about this review, you can contact us at support@bearable.app.

The best breathing exercises for stress

What are the best breathing exercises for stress?

Published on March 29th 2023.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

Stress is something we all deal with from time to time and sometimes it can feel like it’s taking over. 74% of us have felt overwhelmed with stress in the last year and for some of us, this can have real consequences. For example, one survey found that just under 30% of us admit to drinking more when we’re stressed and 16% start smoking (or increase how often they do it).

Stress can also impact many parts of our lives, for example, people who are stressed lose on average 24 days a year from work due to ill health.

Whilst banishing stress isn’t quite as easy as taking a few deep breaths, how we breathe can be a powerful tool for managing stress. If you’re finding yourself stressed right now, here are some of the best breathing exercises that can help with stress.

What is stress and when should I worry about it?

Stress is a general term to describe a feeling of being under pressure or in a situation that we’re struggling to deal with. We may experience stress suddenly after a big event (such as a change in job or moving house) or more long-term if we experience difficult circumstances, such as living with a chronic illness or money worries.

It might sound silly but occasional stress could actually be a good thing: it can help your brain’s performance and even make you more alert. However, when it sticks around for longer, it can cause more issues.

Long-term stress-sometimes called chronic stress- can cause physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches and digestion problems. It can also make it harder to concentrate and make you feel super overwhelmed. As a result, you might find making even the simplest decision (such as where to go for dinner) is difficult.

If you find yourself regularly stressed, you’re finding it tough to manage or simple stress-busting techniques aren’t helping, it could be a sign that you need some help dealing with stress.

What causes chronic stress?

There are so many different causes of stress so it really depends on your individual circumstances. Work is a common one: whether it’s the commute, workload or colleague relationship 23% of us say that work makes us stressed.

Money worries are also super common, especially right now. In fact, 90% of Americans say money impacts their stress levels. 

Family life is another common stressor, whether that’s juggling toddler tantrums or making time to see your loved ones. “There are a multitude of factors that contribute to why parenting is stressful. The most common I see is when parents face situations they’re not equipped to manage. For example, if their child displays a new type of behaviour they don’t know how to manage. Feeling ill-equipped or out of control are key triggers of stress,” says Madeleine Woolgar, a parent coach and behaviour expert who specialises in supporting parents with strong-willed children.

Living with a long-term health issue can also cause stress. “Having a chronic illness makes you particularly vulnerable to stress. It’s extremely stressful having to deal with medical professionals, as well as a lack of understanding surrounding chronic illness which can then leave you feeling isolated. To rub salt in the wounds, there can be financial implications for chronic illness sufferers and this alone can create a sense of overwhelm too,” says Sarah Berthon, a chronic illness business mentor.

How can breathing exercises help stress?

When we are stressed, it can actually impact our respiratory system. That’s why you might feel short of breath or find yourself breathing quicker when stress kicks in. Whilst this isn’t usually a medical emergency (the exception being if you have respiratory conditions such as asthma or bronchitis) focusing on your breathing can help restore this to your normal pattern. This will help increase your oxygen levels and release any tension. 

Breathing exercises can also provide a welcome distraction from your stress and help you focus on one simple thing, which can allow you to quickly calm down and think more rationally.

Some research has found that a breathing programme when combined with meditation can help your stress levels and mental health; with it showing an immediate impact on stress.

How to do breathing exercises for stress?

If you’re not sure how to get started, there are lots of guides online for more mindful and focused breathing that take just a few minutes to complete. We asked some experts to share some of their favourites.

Nasal Breathing

“This one is super easy and it instantly relieves stress. Take a deep breath in through your nose, then immediately take another short sharp breath in through your nose (a sharp sniff).

When you’re stressed you tend to breathe shallowly, at the top of your lungs. The deep breath gets air right down to the bottom of your lungs, and the second breath snaps open the millions of tiny alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs, they’re the workhorses of your respiratory system) which improves your oxygen uptake) says Geraldine Joaquim

Clinical hypnotherapist and wellness coach.

Coherent Breathing

“If you have your hands free, place them on your belly or lower rib cage, otherwise just become aware of this area and direct your breath here. Slow your breath down, imagine you are breathing in a delicate thread of air that is reaching low down into the belly and then slowly exhale it (use the nose, not the mouth). Make your breath as slow as you can but aim for 5-6 seconds for the inhale and the same for the exhale. This is called coherent breathing and will bring your heart and brain into coherence so that you feel balanced, present and calm. You can sit or stand whilst you do this, it’s a breath that you can do any place, any time,” says yoga teacher Cat Merrick.

4-7-8 Breathing 

4-7-8 breathing is a breathing technique that activates your parasympathetic nervous system (the bit that helps you relax).  The idea is that you let your lips part and exhale completely through your mouth. Then you silently inhale through your nose whilst you count to 4. Follow this by holding your breath for seven seconds and then exhaling for a further 8.  Want to know if it makes a difference? Check out our 14-day 4-7-8 breathing challenge before bed on the Bearable app.

Box Breathing

Box breathing (also called square breathing) involves breathing in intervals of four seconds. First, breathe in and count to 4 slowly, then hold for a further four. Now exhale through your mouth for 4 more seconds. Repeat this cycle as many times as you can for around 30 seconds to help slow down your breathing.

What to expect from breathing exercises for stress?

It’s recommended to take around five minutes to complete breathing exercises when you’re stressed. Remember that the most important thing is to take a moment to breathe deeply, so don’t get hung up on mantras or counting each breath if it’s too distracting. After a few minutes, you should notice that breathing this way becomes automatic and you might start to feel less tense. Breathing exercises do need to be practised regularly to have a real impact, so if you find yourself stressed a short while later, just return to your breathing practice.

Don’t expect that breathing exercises are all you need to conquer stress. They are a very useful tool to practice the minute you find yourself tensing, but if this is a regular occurrence then you should chat with your GP about getting further help for your stress levels.

The benefits of tracking breathing exercises and stress

There are so many benefits to tracking lifestyle factors and self-care tools like breathing exercises. It’s a great way to see what tools are most effective in helping you quickly tackle stress head-on (so you know what to do as soon as you feel stressed) and it can be easily shared with your medical team if you do need some more support. 

It’s completely normal to feel stressed from time to time. Learning about breathing exercises can help you feel more in control of your stress and be equipped to best handle it when it does rear its ugly head.

Not sure where to start, why not try our in-app Breathwork experiment? It’s a 14-day challenge to track the impact of guided breathwork exercises on your health.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

Stress Statistics, The Mental Health Foundation.
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/mental-health-statistics/stress-statistics

Stress, Mental Health Foundation.
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/stress

What is stress, Mind.
https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress/what-is-stress

Researchers find out why some stress is good for you, UC Berkley News.
https://news.berkeley.edu/2013/04/16/researchers-find-out-why-some-stress-is-good-for-you/

Get help with Stress, NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/stress/

Workplace stress statistics, Ciphr.
https://www.ciphr.com/workplace-stress-statistics/

90% of Americans say money impacts their stress level, according to survey, CNBC.
https://www.cnbc.com/select/why-americans-are-stressed-about-money/

Madeline Woolgar, Moms Who Thrive.
https://www.mumswhothrive.com/

Sarah Berthon, Excel Against The Odds.
https://www.excelagainsttheodds.co.uk/

Stress effects on the body, American Psychological Association.
https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body

How do breathing exercises reduce stress, Calmer.
https://www.thisiscalmer.com/blog/how-do-breathing-exercises-alleviate-stress

Why breathing is so effective at reducing stress, Harvard Business Review.
https://hbr.org/2020/09/research-why-breathing-is-so-effective-at-reducing-stress

Breathing exercises for stress, NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/breathing-exercises-for-stress/

Geraldine Joaquim, geraldinejoaquim.co.uk
https://www.geraldinejoaquim.co.uk/

Cat Merrick, Breathe, Dance & Yoga.
https://breathedanceandyoga.com/

4-7-8 Breathing, Healthline.com
https://www.healthline.com/health/4-7-8-breathing#How-to-do-it-

Box Breathing, WebMD.
https://www.webmd.com/balance/what-is-box-breathing

Signs of anxiousness vs. anxiety

What are the signs and what's the difference between Anxiousness and Anxiety Disorder?

Published on March 8th 2023.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

Anxiety is becoming increasingly prevalent, with many factors contributing to this. Whether it’s the rising cost of living, adjusting to hybrid work arrangements, or feeling stressed by the constant stream of negative news, it’s common to experience anxious feelings from time to time. However, how can you tell if your feelings of anxiety have developed into an anxiety disorder? When should you seek professional help? In this article, we’ll explore the signs that indicate your worries have become a more serious mental health issue.

Photo by SHINE TANG on Unsplash

What is anxiousness?

Anxiousness is a term used to describe the state of worry or stress that we experience. It can arise from specific triggers, such as a health concern or a work-related issue, or it may manifest as a more general sense of unease. It’s entirely normal to experience bouts of anxiousness, especially during major life changes. In fact, almost everyone will experience this feeling at some point in their lives, even if they don’t openly discuss it.

What’s the difference between anxiousness and anxiety disorder?

Although we often use the terms “anxiousness” and “anxiety disorder” interchangeably, it’s important to understand the distinction between the two.

Anxiousness is a more general term that refers to the feelings of worry or stress that we experience. It doesn’t necessarily indicate the severity or duration of those feelings, and it can be used to describe anything from pre-date jitters to ongoing stress. However, experiencing anxiousness doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a mental health condition that requires treatment.

Anxiety disorder, on the other hand, is a more serious and less common condition. Approximately 19% of Americans have experienced some form of anxiety disorder in the past year. There are several types of anxiety disorder, including generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Unlike general anxiousness, anxiety disorder is persistent and can significantly impact your daily life, affecting your ability to work, socialise, and form relationships.

While feelings of anxiousness may be resolved with simple stress-reducing exercises, anxiety disorder typically requires more intensive treatment, such as therapy or medication. It’s important to recognise the difference between the two and seek appropriate help if you suspect that you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.

Does anxiousness turn into anxiety disorder?

Anxiety doesn’t always develop in a straightforward, linear manner. You might feel incredibly stressed one day, only to feel completely calm and collected the next.

For some people, feelings of anxiousness may come and go throughout their lives without ever becoming more severe or developing into an anxiety disorder. However, in other cases, anxiousness can gradually increase in severity until it becomes a more serious mental health condition. This can happen so gradually that we may not even realise we’re living with an anxiety disorder, which is why it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms.

In some cases, anxiety disorder may appear suddenly and without warning, even in individuals who have never experienced high levels of stress before. For example, someone might develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD typically arise within a month of the event and can be severe and long-lasting.

Overall, anxiety is a complex and varied condition that can affect individuals in different ways. It’s important to be mindful of your own symptoms and seek help if you suspect that you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.

How can I tell if I need help with my anxiousness?

Taking care of your mental health is always a good idea, regardless of whether you’re currently experiencing anxiety or not. You don’t have to wait until your anxiety becomes severe before trying out strategies to manage it, like mindfulness, exercise, or talking to a friend.

However, if you’re starting to feel like your anxiousness could be something more serious, there are a few things you can do to seek help. The first step is to make an appointment with your GP and discuss your mental health concerns. It can be helpful to track your physical symptoms of anxiety and how they’re affecting your life beforehand. You may also want to take an anxiety self-assessment quiz to get a better sense of your symptoms, though this isn’t a replacement for professional medical advice.

Remember, there’s no shame in talking to your doctor about your mental health. Your concerns are just as valid as any physical health issues, and your doctor will take them seriously.

“As GPs, one in four appointments are to do with mental health as the primary reason for consulting. It is really important that we as GPs carefully assess every individual patient’s problem” says GP Dr Claire Ashley. 

“We commonly ask about mood, thoughts and feelings, and worries but also about physical symptoms such as poor sleep, lack of appetite and self-neglect. We will also want to know if you are drinking alcohol to manage your symptoms. We might ask about behavioural changes and how much your relationships and ability to work and care for others is affected,” she adds.

How can anxiousness be treated?

If you’re dealing with anxious thoughts, there are several self-care measures you can try. Shifting your focus can be especially helpful. You might want to explore audio relaxation techniques that you can listen to on your phone or practice simple breathing exercises. It may sound simple, but breathing techniques have been shown to be effective against anxiety and stress.

Making general lifestyle changes can also be useful for managing feelings of anxiousness. For instance, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water can help avoid dehydration, which can cause anxiety. Additionally, cutting back on caffeine can help, as caffeine intake has been linked to anxiety.

If your anxiousness is triggered by a particular issue, taking time to reflect on what you can do to mitigate the issue might be beneficial. For example, if your morning commute causes you stress, consider speaking to your boss about flexible working. If you’ve had an argument with a loved one, scheduling a time to speak with them calmly could be helpful.

How can anxiety disorder be treated?

If you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder, self-care measures may not be enough and it’s important to seek proper treatment. If your anxiety is affecting your ability to perform everyday tasks, there are treatment options available. Your GP may recommend talking therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, which can help you reframe negative thoughts. You might also be prescribed medication, such as antidepressants or beta blockers, especially if you experience physical symptoms like panic attacks.

According to GP Claire Ashley, “For mild to moderate anxiety disorder, the gold standard of treatment is therapy. For more severe anxiety, the patient is likely to need a combination of therapy and medication.”

It’s worth noting that anxiousness and anxiety disorder are different in terms of their duration and severity. Tracking your mood and other symptoms using an app like Bearable can help you identify when you need additional support for your anxiety. With the right treatment, you can regain control and start living your life again.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

UK has experienced ‘explosion’ in anxiety since 2008, study finds, The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/14/uk-has-experienced-explosion-in-anxiety-since-2008-study-finds

Why do I feel anxious and panicky, the NHS.
https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/mental-wellbeing/anxiety-and-panic/why-do-i-feel-anxious-and-panicky

Anxiety Statistics, National Institute for Mental Health.
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder

Anxiety Disorders – Facts & Statistics, Anxiety & Depression Association of America.
https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics

Generalised anxiety disorder in adults, the NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/generalised-anxiety-disorder/overview/

Everything You Need to Know About Anxiety, Healthline.com
https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety-symptoms

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), The Mayo Clinic.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967

Depression & Anxiety Self Assessment Quiz, The NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/depression-anxiety-self-assessment-quiz/

Dr Claire Ashley.
https://www.drclaireashley.com/

Relaxation techniques, the NHS.
https://www.cntw.nhs.uk/resource-library/relaxation-techniques/

Breathing exercises, the NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/breathing-exercises-for-stress/

The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults, Ma et al. 2017.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/

The best breathing exercises for stress

74% of us have felt overwhelmed with stress in the last year and this can have real consequences. Whilst banishing stress isn’t as easy as taking a few deep breaths, how we breathe can be a powerful tool for managing stress levels. Let’s find out how.

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Signs of anxiousness vs. anxiety

How can you tell if your feelings of anxiety have developed into an anxiety disorder and when should you seek professional help? In this article, we’ll explore the signs that can indicate that your worries may have become a more serious mental health issue.

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How to stop anxiety right now for anxiety attacks

How to stop anxiety right now.

Published on February 21st 2023.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

Chapters. 
1. Recognition | 2. Breathing | 3. Grounding | 4. Hydration | 5. No Caffeine | 6. Find Support | 7. Get Outside

However much we may implement long-term stress reduction strategies (such as diet changes or exercise), sometimes we find ourselves in an unexpected anxiety spiral that’s out of our control. Some of us may get a sudden increase of anxious thoughts or it may take the form of physical manifestations (such as a racing heart and shortness of breath we associate with panic attacks).

Anxiety prevention strategies are really useful (check out our article on The 7 best science-backed coping strategies for anxiety for more of these) but what should we do if we’re already anxious right now? If that’s you, then don’t worry: you’re not alone. 40 million adults in the US (and around 8 million in the UK) experience anxiety. Let’s take a look at some strategies for how to get rid of anxiety as it’s happening to you.

1. Recognise that you’re experiencing an anxiety attack.

Sometimes we’re convinced the anxiety we’re experiencing is much more serious than it actually is: for example, we may think we’re actually having a heart attack if we suddenly experience a racing heart. Other times, we may be convinced by anxiety that we’re in real danger when we’re actually safe. Recognising what you’re going through is actually anxiety is one of the most powerful things you can do in the short term. Some of the symptoms of an anxiety attack are very real-such as shortness of breath, tingling in fingers, shaking and feeling sick.  But these symptoms often go away within 30 minutes and can be distinguished, e.g. a heart attack usually begins when you physically exert yourself but anxiety attacks can happen when you’re at rest. It allows you to think more rationally and then take steps to reduce it. You may choose to opt to repeat a mantra such as: ‘I know this is anxiety and it will soon pass’ or ‘Anxiety is making me think like this right now – but it won’t last forever.’

2. Try this one-minute breathing exercise.

How often have you been told ‘just breathe!’ when you’re stressed? Whilst it might sound super unhelpful or patronising, there’s actually a good reason for this. Breathing practice has been found to be an effective remedy against anxiety. However, despite the research, when we’re anxious,our breathing can be harder to control. It’s been proven that those with anxiety can experience an exaggerated increase in their rate of respiration ( breathing). We actually need to remind ourselves to breathe properly and specific breathing exercises can help with this. “We want to release the increased tension in the muscles and find calm again. My specific recommendation when breathing is to have a longer out-breath than in-breath. This calms the vagus nerve and helps engage the parasympathetic nervous system (this system helps relax your body when you’re stressed). It also de-activates the sympathetic nervous system (the system that activates your fight and flight response).” explains Sylvia Tillmann, a TRE (Tension Releasing Exercises) provider, who teaches her clients how to release tension held in their body.

“You could count slowly to 3 whilst taking a breath in and then slowly to six when breathing out. You’ll get into a rhythm and ideally do this for a minute or two.” adds Sylvia.

3. Try some grounding techniques

When we’re anxious, we often can’t focus on what’s happening right now. How often have you been so anxious that you’ve missed a doctor’s appointment or forgotten to eat breakfast that morning? There’s a reason for this; when we’re anxious it makes it harder to concentrate and learn new information. One large study of American adults found that the more anxious they were, the worse their working memory was. Grounding techniques are techniques specifically designed to bring you back to the present moment and distract from anxious thoughts. “A simple and effective grounding exercise is to use the 54321 method. Before you start, take a few slow breaths. Take a look around you and notice 5 things that you see. Then notice 4 things in the environment you can touch. Next, bring your attention to 3 things you can hear. Next, pay attention to 2 things you can smell. Finally, bring your attention to 1 thing you can taste. Focusing your attention this way can bring you back to the present moment and quieten the mind” says CBT therapist and founder of Conscious & Calm Navit Schechter.

4. Drink a glass of water

We all know how important it is to stay hydrated, but sometimes life just gets in the way. We might find it hard to remember to drink 8 glasses of water a day when our mental health is poor or rely on caffeine if we’re low on spoons.

However, even being mildly dehydrated has been found to increase anxiety and fatigue. It sounds simple but water really could help. “When you’re feeling anxious, have a glass of water. Mild dehydration can cause an increase in anxiety. There’s been several studies that indicate increasing water can have a beneficial effect on calmness.” says nutritionist Hannah Hope.

If you find yourself going hours without water, consider setting a reminder on your phone, using a water tracking bottle or keeping track of your water intake by using the Bearable app.

5. Cut down on energy drinks

Energy drinks have grown in popularity and are now a billion-dollar industry.  You may rely on them to help fatigue or grab one when you know you’ve got to cram for a big test or work presentation. A study has found energy drink consumption was associated with anxiety increasing. It’s likely due to the caffeine they contain, which can also be anxiety triggers. “Caffeine, found in tea, coffee and soda drinks can be a stimulant, and if you have increased sensitivity to caffeine then this may directly cause anxiety.” advises nutritionist Hannah Hope. We know it’s not always possible to ditch them altogether, especially if you struggle with chronic fatigue, but reducing them is one practical step you can take today if you’re dealing with anxiety.“ If you are having caffeine, then have it with food and before midday and no more than 2 servings a day.” adds Hannah Hope.

6. Speak to a friend or family member

Anxiety can make us feel incredibly isolated and alone-but it doesn’t have to be that way. Having a friend or family member you can rely on can help you think more rationally and reassure you that you’re not in danger.  One study found that support from family members is an important part of a personal support network in relation to the recovery process.

Sometimes we can feel nervous about talking to a loved one so it could be worth practising what you’d like to say. It’s worth thinking about how you’d like a loved one to support you ahead of an anxiety attack, so you feel reassured rather than dismissed. We’re often told things like ‘you’re fine! Or ‘forget about it!’ which isn’t that helpful when our anxiety feels all-consuming. You may explain what support you need, such as sharing a mantra with them that you’d like them to repeat or something that you know helps distract you.

7. Take yourself to an outside space

If it’s possible, try temporarily shifting to new surroundings-even if just for a couple of minutes. Assistant Psychologist and Hypnotherapist Holly Buckley explains: “we often find that when in panic mode, we feel trapped, almost as if the walls are closing in on you. So if you feel those panic feelings rising then safely take yourself outside to an open space.” You don’t need to travel far for this. “ This could even just be outside on your doorstep or in the car park of your work building. Just somewhere where you can hear outside sounds, see more space and feel fresh air. Then take some deep breaths and try the 54321 exercise.” she adds.

We hope these simple but effective strategies have given you some coping mechanisms if you’re dealing with anxiety right now. Whichever of these you find useful,  remember that you can use Bearable to learn how they impact your anxiety, mood, sleep, energy levels and any other symptoms you’re experiencing.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

Anxiety Statistics 2023, SingleCare.
https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/anxiety-statistics/

Anxiety Statistics 2023, Champion Health.
https://championhealth.co.uk/insights/anxiety-statistics/

Getting help with Anxiety, Fear, and Panic, NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/anxiety-fear-panic/

Panic Attacks vs. Heart Attacks, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
https://www.bidmc.org/about-bidmc/wellness-insights/heart-health/2020/01/panic-attack-vs-heart-attack

The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults, Ma et al. Frontiers in Psychology.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/

Anxiety, Respiration and Cerebral Blood Flow: Implications for Functional Brain Imaging, Giardino et al, Comprehensive Psychiatry.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1820771

Sylvia Tillmann, Tremendous TRE.
https://www.tremendoustre.co.uk/about

The four horsemen of forgetfulness, Harvard Health Publishing.
https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/the-four-horsemen-of-forgetfulness

How Anxiety affects your focus, BBC.
https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200611-how-anxiety-affects-your-focus

Navit Schechter, Conscious & Calm.
https://consciousandcalm.com/

What is Spoon Theory, Healthline.
https://www.healthline.com/health/spoon-theory-chronic-illness-explained-like-never-before

Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men, Ganio et al, British Journal of Nutrition.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21736786/

Hannah Hope, H Hope Nutrition.
https://www.hhopenutrition.com/

Energy Drink sales in the USA 2021, Statista.
https://www.statista.com/statistics/558022/us-energy-drink-sales/

Energy drink consumption is associated with anxiety in Australian young adult males, Trapp et al. Depression and Anxiety (Journal).
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24019267/

Family Network Support and Mental Health Recovery, Pernice-Duca, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. 
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1752-0606.2009.00182.x

Talking about your mental health problem, Mind.
https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/seeking-help-for-a-mental-health-problem/talking-to-friends-family/

Choosing the best medication app in 2023

Choosing the best medication app in 2023

Published on February 16th 2023.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

Whether you’re starting a new prescription or are juggling a bunch of different medication types, finding the best pill app can make life just that little bit easier to manage. With 131 million Americans taking at least one medication, many of us with chronic conditions are used to taking several. In fact, the average person takes four different types of medications. Add to that the brain fog which often comes with chronic conditions, is it any wonder we turn to technology to help us manage them all? Whether you’re looking for a simple system to remind you to take your meds or deeper insights into how the multiple medications you take could impact your health, here’s how to choose the best pill app for you.

Photo by Altin Ferreira on Unsplash

What are the different types of medication apps?

In their simplest forms, there are types of medication apps that just work in reminding you to take your medication that day. These notification apps are really handy if you often forget to take your pills or are juggling multiple medications. Some of these can also alert you if you’re running low on supplies, with others doubling as prescription request apps. These apps allow you to easily order or request repeat medication when you’re low on stock.

Other apps allow you to delve more into the medication you’re taking. All-in-one medication management apps come with clever insights to help you understand how your medication is impacting your symptoms. They allow you to track improvement, side effects and, if you’re taking more than one type of pill, any potential contradictions too. These all-in-one medical management apps allow you to share your findings with your doctor.

What should I look for in a medication app?

Customisation.
There are several things to consider when looking for a medication app to download. The first is to look for an app that offers flexibility and customisation. Whilst you might be looking to just track one pill right now, things may change in the future. This means looking for a pill app that tracks several medications simultaneously is best. Look for an app where you can add custom symptoms and side effects rather than opting from a restricted list. After all, our bodies all respond differently despite what the tiny leaflet in your medication box says.

Shareability.
Another thing to look for is shareability. You might choose to share the app with your carer or loved one who may be in charge of administering your medication. Or you may want to share information with your doctor so they can alter your dose going forward. 

Finally, look for an app that allows you some insight into the medication you’re taking. So after our doctor asks us: ‘is this medication working?’ or ‘have you noticed this particular side effect?’ you’ll be more equipped if you choose an app that allows you insight into your pills. Some apps allow you to track other factors around your medication, such as if a particular symptom improves after taking it. This can be very useful in tracking your pills.

Privacy & Security.
Firstly, let’s talk about privacy. If you’re thinking of using a symptom-tracking app, you want to make sure that your data is as private and secure as possible. 

Both the Apple App Store and Android Play Store make it easy to review the measures taken by an app to keep your data private and secure. These measures include an explanation of:

    • What data is being collected
    • What data is being shared
    • Why this data is being collected
    • Whether collecting the data is optional
    • The security practices of the App

Some important things to look out for are:

    • Can your data be deleted?
    • How much Personally Identifiable Data (PII) is being collected and for what reason?
    • Is your data encrypted?

If you’re unsure about the privacy and security of your health data it could also be helpful to read the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy or you could even contact the developers directly. 

Note. If you live in the US and are concerned about details of your reproductive health being shared with law enforcement officials, you can look for apps that are based outside of the US and that fall outside of the jurisdiction of the US legal system.

Credibility.
One of the best ways to determine which medication app is right for you is to read other people’s testimonials. Specifically looking for reviews written by people with your health condition(s) can help you figure out if it’s right for you.

You can also look for information about whether the pill tracker has been clinically reviewed or tested in an empirical study. 

Insights & Reports.
One of the unique benefits of digital medication tracking, many of the options can help you to identify…

    • Medication and symptom trends so you can understand how medication may cause any side effects.

    • Correlations between your medication and improvement in symptoms to help you figure out if a medication is working or not.

    • How a specific medication may be impacting your overall mood score.

    • How a change of medication may change your symptoms, along with other insights like your overall mood, sleep and energy.

If you’re seeking a symptom tracker to help you with managing your symptoms or if you’re in the process of obtaining a diagnosis, these types of insights can be especially helpful.

Ultimately, if you’re looking to have more control over your symptoms or a clearer understanding of why and when they occur, symptom trackers with reporting features may be the right option for you.

How to choose the right medication app for me?

Choosing the right medication app really depends on your biggest problems. If you keep forgetting to take your medication, you need to opt for an apt that sends regular reminders and allows you to log when you’ve taken it. If you often run out, you may also look for an app that gives you the heads-up for ordering a new script from your doctor.

If you’re wanting to understand the interaction between you and your body better, then you’ll need to choose an app that has the functionality to track the medication you take and your symptoms over a longer period of time. 

Finally, if you plan to share this information with your doctor, look for an app that makes sharing easy.

What are the benefits of medication apps?

The most obvious one is that it encourages you to take your medication more regularly, preventing you from skipping days or running out of medication. It’s estimated over 80% miss a dose of medication occasionally so using a pill app with regular notification reminders can stop this from turning into a more regular thing. Research found that patients with coronary heart disease who used medication reminder apps were more likely to adhere to their medication compared to those who didn’t. A lot of medication apps also allow you to record when you’ve taken your pills, avoiding those ‘did I or didn’t I?’ questions that keep you up late at night.

For those with chronic illnesses, finding a medication that works and causes minimal side effects can sometimes feel like stumbling around in the dark. 

Proactively using an app that allows you to better understand the medication you’re taking and symptom changes can help your doctor refine these choices further and ultimately help you feel better. This can sometimes be a simple switch. For example, if you use a pain app and realise your pills are what’s causing new digestive issues, your doctor may advise you to take them only with food or at a different time of day. If you track your pain level and medication over a longer period of time and realise it’s getting worse, your doctor will know this pill isn’t working, so they can increase the dose or try an alternative. You may choose to track this over a set period of time, for example in the Bearable app you can track the impact of your medication for different time periods, such as over two days or three days or over a calendar month.

Unfortunately, many of the medications we take do come with side effects and it’s all about balancing these with their numerous benefits in making us feel well. Using a medication app helps us understand more about this balance.

When do medical professionals recommend using a medication app?

Many medical professionals recommend patients use medication apps. “Poor medication compliance or non-compliance is a major sticking point for patients and clinicians, which is why I recommend using medication apps to manage complicated medication routines or to send timely reminders when it is vital for a patient to take an antibiotic, for example, on a strict regime.” says Doctor Dr Noreen and Nguru, of What the Doctor Reccomends.

“Rather than relying on memory alone is not advisable because of the risk of accidental overdose from ‘double dosing’. I also find that for the elderly and vulnerable patients with conditions affecting memory or motivation, the use of a medication app can be rewarding as some apps also allow the tracking of symptoms, side effects and personalisation features,” she adds.

What do users want from a medication app?

Most patients look for an app that will help with the stress of remembering to take their medication. Patients who use an app for their medication are more likely to take it on time. Therefore, an app that comes with easy-to-follow medication notifications is on top of most patients’ lists.

“With so much on the go in my life, it’s all too easy to forget to take my pills. Without reminders popping up on my phone, I could easily go all day and not think about my pills. Having an app with reminders helps me stick to my routine and my health benefits as a result,” says Laura Jean who blogs about life with Rheumatoid Arthritis at RA Life Hacks.

For others, having a pill app that allows you to input every time you’ve taken your meds is a great idea. “I’d forget to take my epilepsy medication without reminders. I look for an app that will keep reminding me. For example, if my app goes off at 9am and I’m busy, it’ll go off again later. I can always snooze, which allows me to get home to get medication, when the alarm will restart.” says Annie from Tales of Annie Bean.

Some look for a medication app that has detailed tracking functions. “I’ve been using medication reminder apps for twelve years. I use an app that not only reminds me to take my meds but tracks my taking them which can be printed out for doctor visits. I also track pain levels and health notes. It backs up online so I never lose that information,” says Mandy Farmer who blogs over at Mandy and Michele.

TLDR.

Here’s a quick summary of the main factors that we think you should consider when choosing a medication app in 2023.

    • Shareability. if you plan to share this information with your family, carers or doctors, do make sure your app allows you to do this super easily.

    • Customisation. Not everyone’s journey is the same so look for an app that allows you to customise things like symptoms and duration.

    • Analytics. Not everyone will want advanced tracking but looking for an app that allows you insights into medication.

    • Reminders. To help you remember when to take each of your medications and potentially also remind you when you need to top up your prescription.

    • Privacy. If you’re concerned about the privacy and security of sensitive, health-related data, then it’s smart to look into the security practices of the apps you’re assessing and the control they give you over your data.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

Choosing the best pain app in 2023

Choosing the best pain app in 2023.

Published on Feb 16th 2023.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

With chronic pain affecting 50 million Americans, finding solutions to help make life easier is on many people’s agenda. Whilst technology can’t promise a pain-free life, pain apps can be a valuable tool on your smartphone. Whether you’re using pain apps to simply track your pain levels or help with overall pain management, knowing which ones to hit the download button for is important. We’ve rounded up everything you need to know about choosing the best pain app in 2023.

What are the different types of pain apps?

Apps can be used to help with any type of pain you might be experiencing. Firstly, apps can be used to help you track and understand your pain levels. These are called pain journals and allow you to rank your pain levels as well as make notes to describe the type and duration of your pain. These types of apps can be very helpful in understanding your pain.

There are also apps that can help with overall pain management. Whilst these can’t cure your chronic pain, they can help you tackle pain levels through tried and tested strategies. Some of these include a psychological component and other things like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

What should I look for in a pain app?

There are a few key things to look for in a pain-tracking app. According to the experts, these are pain episode recording, exploration and sharing.

These are…

    • Recording pain episodes.
    • Exploring pain episodes.
    • Sharing pain episodes.

 If you’re looking for an app to monitor your pain levels, then you need an app that allows you to properly report this. A lot of health professionals will ask you to rank your pain on a scale of 1-5, but this can be hard to understand ( especially if you’re used to dealing with constant pain and are never at a zero). Instead, look for an app that allows you to more accurately record your pain. For example, you might want to record whether your pain is mild-severe, the location of your pain and also the type of pain (such as burning or dull).

If your pain is complex, look for an app that has a level of customisation to record your pain. If you are looking to also get insights into your pain, then you’ll need to look for an app that allows you to track your pain over a longer period of time and space to record any potential triggers too.

If you’re looking for an app to help manage your pain, it’s worth looking into the different strategies it offers before you hit download. Consider whether it offers psychological therapists or any expert guidance in helping with the pain levels. Living with chronic pain can be really lonely, so you may choose to opt for an app that has a community aspect to allow you to connect with others.

How to choose the right pain app for you?

Firstly, consider your needs from the app and the type of pain you’re experiencing. If you are dealing with daily chronic pain, choose an app that allows you to log this over a long period of time and has customisable options, such as being able to edit the location and type of pain. Some people may need a straightforward app to log pain but others may be using a pain app to better understand their body. If that’s you, opt for an app that allows you to log additional information (like triggers) and provides insights into your symptoms. This is especially important if you plan to share this information with your doctor.

Not everyone will need a pain app to help with the management of pain levels. However, if your doctor has advised implementing more self-management strategies to help with your chronic pain, then it could be worth looking for an app that offers some pain-management tools too. These may include things like goal setting, exercise or mindfulness. The alternative is to also download two different apps: one to track your pain and one to help deal with it. 

There are also a few more things to consider

Privacy & Security.
Firstly, let’s talk about privacy. Not only do you want to check your data is private and that the app has data security in place but, if the app has a community element, being able to interact anonymously is really important. Many people will keep the data to themselves but sharing it with your doctor can be helpful, so look into whether the app easily provides this option.

Customisable & Personisable.
Many people using pain-tracking apps will have more than one condition. It’s important that the app you use isn’t too restrictive and can allow you to custom track pain.

Insights & Reports.
Some pain apps can help you to identify trends and correlations in your symptoms to help you pinpoint potential triggers. If much of your chronic pain centres around self-management or if you’re trying to get a diagnosis, this can be really useful.

Credibility.
There are so many apps out there that those that have testimonials stand out from the crowd. This may be that they’re clinically reviewed, recommended by therapists or medical professionals or simply have tons of positive reviews from their users. Negative reviews can also help you figure out which ones aren’t worth downloading.

All-in-one solutions.
Ideally, we don’t want to use all of our phone storage on a ton of different apps. So looking for apps that have multiple functions can help you save space and time.  This also makes it so much easier to share the info with professionals too.

What are the benefits of pain apps?

Exploring pain issues.
There are several benefits of using pain apps. Firstly, pain tracking apps can help you explore really valuable insight into your condition and allow you to better self-reflect. This is particularly crucial if certain triggers and lifestyle choices exacerbate your pain. Not only can this help you understand your body better but it makes conversing with medical professionals that much easier. 

Recording and Sharing Pain Episodes.
Many of us with long-term pain are used to having to fight for proper healthcare and research has found difficulties in accurately tracking pain levels is part of this problem. This is especially the case for women, as it’s been proven their pain isn’t taken as seriously as men’s. Using a pain app over a series of weeks can help you gather data to show the duration and severity of your pain, which ensures your doctor gets a clearer picture. It’s also a good idea to speak to your doctor about the scale they use to monitor symptoms and pain, so you can correlate this with your app.

Pain Self-Management.
Using an app that helps you manage pain is unlikely to solve your chronic pain but can be useful in a flare-up. They can give you useful self-management strategies that can be used alongside your existing treatment plan. Whilst there’s not much specific evidence that pain apps can reduce chronic pain, evidence tells us that self-management strategies they may use are beneficial.

Whatever app you opt for, many studies have found that patients who use a pain app are actually more likely to record improvements in things like pain levels and their quality of life.

When do medical professionals recommend using a pain app?

“There are plenty of apps that help track your pain levels and activity etc. however, what I encourage people to think about and look for is an app that helps identify when your pain levels are more manageable or when you coped well with the pain,” says Holly Nicole a, Solution Focused Hypnotherapist & consultant psychologist.

“When you draw the brain’s attention to what you are doing well and things that you do that help you cope better with this, you are then able to notice more and more times where the ‘pain’ is more manageable,” she adds.

What do users want from a pain app?

For people living with chronic long-term pain users, having an app that allows you to share pain levels with others is key. “I tried using paper and pen but I got tired. Having an app where I can share with my carers is really great,” says Lauren Perry. 

Whilst some users will be happy with tapping a few buttons to monitor their pain levels, most want to be able to take notes to understand their pain experience. “I like having an app that gives me space to write notes on certain symptoms. For example, when tracking my period pains, it can be handy for me to note what time they started and how quickly they ramped up, as it helps me manage pain medication better for the next time” says blogger Charlotte Millington.

TLDR.

    • There are several different types of pain apps so choose if you want one to log your symptoms, help manage them or both!

    • Pain apps are also a way to help feel supported. Consider opting for a pain app that allows you to connect with others who are in a similar position (anonymously if needed).

    • Pain is always individual and two people with one condition may have completely different experiences. That’s why it’s so important to opt for a pain app that has some degree of customisation and allows you to accurately enter pain location, duration and type.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

Choosing the best mental health app in 2023

Choosing the best mental health app in 2023

Published on February 15th 2023.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

Whether you’re looking for an app to track your mood or to help when an anxiety attack hits, mental health apps are on the rise. It’s thought there’s up to 20,000 mental health apps to help on the market, so knowing which one will actually help and which will just take up data storage is important. Let’s take a look at how to choose the best mental health app for your health in 2023.

What are the different types of mental health apps? 

There are lots of different types of mental health apps on the market. Some of these apps are designed to help you understand your mental health better and others are specifically designed to help you adapt self-management strategies to cope. These apps include:

Mental health tracking apps.
These apps allow you to easily track your mood. Not only is this a great way to get an overall picture of your mental health over a longer period of time but you can also gain insights into how certain triggers or life events impact your mental health.

Journaling apps.
Journaling apps allow you to write down your feelings in one safe space. Some people use journaling apps for prompts to write in a physical journal, whilst others choose to record it all in the app. There are different types of journals. For example, you might use a gratitude journal to record the things you’re grateful for at the beginning of the day or a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy journal) to help you challenge negative thoughts.

Counselling apps.
Counselling apps allow you to connect directly with therapists. The counselling may be done via phone, online chat or even email messages. Counselling apps may be used alongside regular therapy or to replace it, especially if you can’t access face-to-face therapy right now.

General self-care apps.
There are lots of general self-care apps that can also be beneficial to your overall mental well-being. These might include apps that feature mindfulness activities, general self-care prompts or even a specific type of self-care, such as colouring, manifestation prompts or brain busy tasks like word searches.

What should I look for in a mental health app?

Customisation.
There are several things to consider when looking for a mental health app to download. The first is to look for an app that offers flexibility and customisation. Whilst you may want to just rate your mood on a sliding scale, look for an app that allows you to add extra notes to get a clearer picture.

Shareability.
Another thing to look for is shareability. You might choose to share the app with your therapist or GP to get an idea if you need extra support. If you are taking antidepressants, you may want to share information with your doctor so they can alter your dose going forward. 

Privacy & Security.
Firstly, let’s talk about privacy. If you’re thinking of using a mental health app, you want to make sure that your data is as private and secure as possible. 

Both the Apple App Store and Android Play Store make it easy to review the measures taken by an app to keep your data private and secure. These measures include an explanation of:

    • What data is being collected
    • What data is being shared
    • Why this data is being collected
    • Whether collecting the data is optional
    • The security practices of the App

Some important things to look out for are:

    • Can your data be deleted?
    • How much Personally Identifiable Data (PII) is being collected and for what reason?
    • Is your data encrypted?

If you’re unsure about the privacy and security of your health data it could also be helpful to read the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy or you could even contact the developers directly. 

Note. If you live in the US and are concerned about details of your reproductive health being shared with law enforcement officials, you can look for apps that are based outside of the US and that fall outside of the jurisdiction of the US legal system.

Credibility.
One of the best ways to determine which mental health app is right for you is to read other people’s testimonials. Specifically looking for reviews written by people with similar mental health conditions. If using a counselling app, it’s important to ensure the therapists are accredited and qualified.

Insights & Reports.
One of the unique benefits of mental health apps is you can use them to identify what may help and worsen your mental health. For example…

    • Mood trends so you can understand how certain triggers impact your mental well-being.
    • Correlations between your mental health and medication or therapy.
    • How a specific event or change may be impacting your overall mood score.

How can I choose the right mental health app for me?

There are several things to consider when choosing the right mental health app for you. Firstly, consider why you’re planning to use an app. If it’s to get a clearer overall picture of your mental health, then choose an app that allows you to track this over longer time periods, in relation to other triggers (such as stress level or sleep). Make sure the app allows you to track in a way that works for you (e.g. a simple scoring system or taking more detailed notes). If you are receiving treatment for your mental health, you may look for a mental health app that allows you to share this information easily with your therapist or GP. 

If you are using an app to help your overall mental health, consider what strategies have proven useful for you in the past. If you know you struggle to sit still for ten minutes, don’t download a mindfulness app that will expect you to do just that. Consider how much time you have to dedicate to your mental well-being. There are some simple mental health apps that allow you to record a gratitude prompt in just a minute, whilst if you have more time to spend, you may choose to download a journaling app.

Finally, consider if you will use this app to replace or exist alongside current therapy. If the former, it’s really important to ensure the app provides a type of therapy that is comprehensive and delivered by a qualified professional.

What are the benefits of mental health apps?

There are many benefits to using a mental health app-both for doctors and their patients.

Better insight into mental health.
The most obvious one is that mental health apps can give you more insight into mental health to understand it better. The simple act of recording your mood scores and mental well-being over a set period of time can help get a clearer picture of your overall mental health. Sometimes we don’t realise we’re spiralling until our symptoms worsen significantly so ultimately this could allow you to access earlier intervention.

Overall benefits on your mental wellbeing.
Mental health apps can also allow you to understand if certain things worsen your mental health so you can act accordingly. For example, you may notice that caffeine is making your anxiety worse or meditation has a really positive effect on your depression. Apps with self-monitoring features are thought to help your emotional self-awareness which can in turn reduce mental illness symptoms and improve coping skills.

Help with specific mental health symptoms.
Mental health apps can also help with specific mental health symptoms. For example, CBT apps may help you deal with negative thoughts whilst gratitude apps may help with low moods. There’s evidence that technology can be just as helpful with mental health symptoms as face-to-face therapy. For example, online CBT has been found to help various disorders such as depression, generalised anxiety disorder and OCD. Whilst we know interventions don’t need to be in person to be effective, there’s not much scientific evidence yet on mental health apps specifically as they’re a relatively new phenomenon. This shouldn’t discourage you from using them, especially if they’re the only option available to you. However, you might benefit from tracking the impact on your symptoms and well-being over time to ensure that it’s having a positive impact. When possible you might also benefit from also speaking with your doctor about your use of the app.

When do therapists recommend using a mental health app?

Many therapists say using mental health apps can complement their existing services and ensure the patient can work on their mental well-being 24/7. “Mental health apps can encourage users to manage their mental health independently outside their sessions, which can give them a greater sense of autonomy,” says Psychotherapist Rachel Rushe of CYP Wellbeing, which provides well-being for children and young people.

Therapists also appreciate using mental health apps to get a wider sense of their patient’s mental health. “Mental health apps are also brilliant in helping users track patterns and themes with regard to mental health. It’s often helpful to bring these recognised patterns to therapy sessions to discuss strategies to use, break cycles and overcome and self-sabotaging habits,” she adds.

What do users want from a mental health app?

Many mental health users want an app that is simple to use but creates a big impact. “I look for an app to help me simply log three good things every night before bed. I focus on things that I’m grateful for and it creates a positive reaction in my brain. Going to sleep with happy thoughts makes for a better night’s sleep!” says Kristen Whitehouse, a mental health app user and women’s fitness expert. 

Others look for mental health apps with more space to record their thoughts. “I use an app to help my mind declutter. I struggle with panic attacks and too much information in my mind can give me anxiety. I use a mental health app to write down my thoughts-good or bad-to improve my own well-being,” says Robert Bolohan, a language translator.

Some patients find apps with insights useful. “I can find myself feeling particularly low some days and can’t always pinpoint. So I will use a mental health app which reminds me where I am in my cycle. It’s reassuring to match my mood to my hormones,” says Sarah Birchall.

Finally, some use apps to help keep track of simple self-care habits. “I use a habit tracker app to help motivate me to keep up with better self-care habits. I set goals and find it helps to have a visual record of my progress,” says Stacie Swift.

TLDR.

    • There’s a huge range of mental health apps, so consider if you need a mood tracker, mental health self-management tools or both.

    • Consider how much time you have to commit to using mental health apps: features range from entering a numerical value to having space to write down your innermost thoughts.

    • Consider how mental health apps can support your existing treatment. It may be worth chatting with your therapist to see what they recommend.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

Choosing the best symptom tracker in 2023

Choosing the best symptom tracker in 2024

Published on December 30th 2022.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

With an estimated 133 million Americans suffering from long-term health problems, many of us are dealing with daily health symptoms that we’d like to keep a closer eye on. Some people use symptom trackers as a way to help them get to know their body better and others as a way to share more detailed symptom info with their Doctor. Whatever the reason, keeping track of your symptoms can have a number of benefits. Using a symptom tracker in 2024 is a simple health resolution you can make this year, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. So whether you’re looking for a simple symptom log or a way to pinpoint symptom triggers, here’s our guide to choosing the best symptom tracker for you.

Photo by Surface on Unsplash

What is a symptom tracker?

A symptom tracker is a tool that helps you to keep a close eye on the symptoms and health conditions that you’re experiencing. Symptom trackers can be used daily to help get a detailed overview of changes in your health, help you to predict potential flare-ups, or even just keep track of acute symptoms when they occur. Some symptom trackers can also help you to monitor positive and negative trends in your symptoms, help you to track both objective (e.g. heart rate & steps) and subjective (e.g. fatigue level and emotions) health markers, and can be used as a symptom journal to facilitate more in-depth conversations with a Doctor or Therapist.

What are the different types of symptom trackers?

There are a couple of different types of symptom trackers that you can use. 

Pen & paper symptom trackers.

First of all, the good old-fashioned way is simply putting pen to paper! Some people prefer to do this with the same prompts each day (e.g. logging their level of pain on a scale of 1-10) whilst others prefer a diary format that allows them more freedom to jot down how they’re feeling. This is a great excuse to splash out on a new notebook (who doesn’t love stationary?) but does have the disadvantage that it can quickly get disorganised, especially if you misplace the notebook. This is why many people rely on technology to track their symptoms instead.

Digital symptom trackers.

These can include anything from creating your own document on a computer (you can even make a colour-coordinated spreadsheet) or using an app on your mobile phone. The benefit of a digital symptom tracker is that it allows you to have a clearer long-term picture of your health. For example, you can quickly view symptom trends and many platforms make it easy for you to analyse symptom trends and correlations. Digital symptom trackers or symptom apps may also be more easily shared and the data more easily interpreted by a medical professional.

What are the benefits of symptom trackers?

Using any kind of symptom tracker has a range of benefits. The biggest one is that it allows you to pay closer attention to your health, which may help you access support sooner. This is especially important if you have a long-term condition. Many people who do, are more likely to use symptom trackers. Symptom tracking consistently can even allow you to spot patterns, potentially predict future flare-ups, or pinpoint symptom triggers. All of these can help you feel more in control of your health.

Symptom tracking can be beneficial in aiding communicating with others too, including your GP. 34% of those who use symptom trackers share their info with others, and over half of these share it with their GP. This is because it allows you to present information about your health clearly and ensures you don’t forget to miss any important symptoms. This can also save time at appointments as all your information is there for your medical professional to quickly access without having to ask you lots of questions. This can be especially helpful for people that live with the ‘brain fog’ that is symptomatic of many chronic physical and mental health conditions.

Research has found that symptom trackers allow us to feel more confident in sharing information with our doctors, which can be key to getting a diagnosis and accessing the right support. In 2018, 39% of British people were worried about sharing information but this recently fell to just 15% thanks to the increase in symptom-tracking apps. Having the information in one place may also help conversations with loved ones too as it can help give them a clearer picture of how you’re feeling.

For many, symptom tracking changes how they view their health. 46% of trackers say using symptom trackers has changed their approach to health with 63% agreeing it has had a significant impact on how they live with a chronic illness.

How to choose the right symptom tracker for you?

The right type of symptom tracker will depend on your own individual needs. Firstly, it may depend on your health itself. If you are tracking one simple symptom, you may find a notebook is all you need. However, if you are tracking multiple symptoms and are looking for real insights into these, then using a digital symptom tracker or symptom tracker app could be a better idea. 

It’s also worth considering when and where you’re likely to be symptom tracking. If you want to track ‘in real time’ then using your mobile phone is the best idea, as a notebook or laptop may not always be within reach. However, if it’s something you plan to do each evening, then using a pen-and-paper symptom journal could be integrated into your evening routine.

Thinking about how you want to use the data is also key. If you plan to share it with medical professionals, then using an app that makes sharing your symptoms data easy could be crucial.

What should I look for in a symptom-tracking app?

If you’re looking for a symptom-tracking app, then there are several things to look out for. 

Privacy & Security.

Firstly, let’s talk about privacy. Digital symptom trackers that can be locked with a pin code or password are potentially more secure than a pen-and-paper symptom tracker. However, If you’re thinking of using a symptom-tracking app, you want to make sure that your data is as private and secure as possible. 

Both the Apple App Store and Android Play Store make it easy to review the measures taken by an app to keep your data private and secure. These measures include an explanation of:

    • What data is being collected
    • What data is being shared
    • Why this data is being collected
    • Whether collecting the data is optional
    • The security practices of the App

Some important things to look out for are:

    • Can your data be deleted?
    • How much Personally Identifiable Data (PII) is being collected and for what reason?
    • Is your data encrypted?

If you’re unsure about the privacy and security of your health data it could also be helpful to read the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy or you could even contact the developers directly. 

Note. If you live in the US and are concerned about details of your reproductive health being shared with law enforcement officials, you can look for apps that are based outside of the US and that fall outside of the jurisdiction of the US legal system.

Customisable & Personalisable.

If you’re interested in symptom tracking, it’s likely that you have a number of very specific symptoms that you need to keep track of. This makes it important that the solution you use isn’t too restrictive and allows you to customise what you track in as much or as little detail as you need. 

Whilst this could be an argument in favour of pen-and-paper symptom tracking, there are a number of symptom tracker apps that allow you to customise how you track your symptoms in plenty of detail. So when you’re next assessing digital symptom tracking solutions, you might want to consider if the symptom tracker allows you to measure:

    • Severity level of the symptom
    • The type of symptom
    • Location of the symptom
    • Time & date of the symptom
    • Detailed notes about the symptom 
    • The impact of the symptom on your well-being (e.g. Mood, Emotions, Sleep, Energy, Stress, etc.

Finding solutions that let you track your symptoms in a way that best represents how you experience them can be important. This is especially true if you want to share very detailed symptom information with a medical professional.

Credibility.

As there are so many symptom-tracking options available, so it’s important to find a way to distinguish between them all. One of the best ways to determine which option is right for you is to read other people’s testimonials and reviews. Looking for in-depth reviews where a person has taken the time to provide a fair and balanced overview of their experience is a good place to start. Specifically looking for reviews written by people with your health condition(s) can be helpful too. 

Beyond reading user reviews, you can also look for information about whether the symptom tracker has been clinically reviewed or tested in an empirical study. This will help you to understand if the claims made by the symptom tracker are supported by scientific research.

Another handy measure of credibility is whether or not the symptom tracker has been recommended by health organisations or recognisable publications. However, we suggest that you read the articles in which the symptom tracker is recommended to ensure that you have a full understanding of why it was recommended.

Insights & Reports.

One of the unique benefits of digital symptom tracking, many of the options can help you to identify:

    • Symptom trends so you can take preventative steps to delay or prevent flare-ups.
    • Correlations between your habits & treatment and changes in your symptoms.
    • Average frequency and severity of your symptoms.
    • The relationship between different symptoms.
    • The potential impact of different habits & treatments on all of your symptoms. 
    • Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Yearly changes in symptoms.

If you’re seeking a symptom tracker to help you with managing your symptoms or if you’re in the process of obtaining a diagnosis, these types of insights can be especially helpful.

Ultimately, if you’re looking to have more control over your symptoms or a clearer understanding of why and when they occur, symptom trackers with reporting features may be the right option for you.

When do medical professionals recommend using a symptom tracker?

Many medical professionals find symptom trackers helpful. For example, using apps that record symptoms have been reported to help streamline healthcare professionals’ workload and help them get support more quickly.

“I recommend using an app like Bearable to clients to track the correlation between their symptoms (pain, IBS, migraines and insomnia) with stress, anxiety, any major life events or other changes in their lives. It helps them see how stress impacts their pain symptoms and by learning to manage stress differently, I find their symptoms improve. I also recommend they use an app they can customise as some of my clients have unusual symptoms that aren’t often listed on other trackers. So I recommend Bearable because it has the option to add your own symptoms,” says Psychotherapist Tina Wright.

What do users want from a symptom tracker?

Many users report that a symptom tracker that’s quick and easy to use is top of their list. “I like to use apps that make it really easy to track my symptoms. Features that allow me to give ratings by stars or symptoms via tick boxes make it really quick and easy. It allows me to fill in without having to think too much about it,” says Lucy, who has Crohn’s disease.

For others, being able to see the bigger picture is crucial if they have a long-term condition. “I use an app that allows me to have a check-in space for each day but with the option to view for a week/month to allow me to see the bigger picture,” says another patient.

Patients with multiple chronic conditions often want a symptom tracker that gives them space to make notes and customise their reporting. “I use one app to track my endometriosis but another to track my migraines. I like to use an app that can also help me know when I’ve taken my meds and then make notes for my career to see and report any side effects. I also use a spreadsheet to keep a diary of migraines,” says Lauren Perry, who runs a blog about living with chronic illness and disability.

A summary of what to consider when choosing a symptom tracker in 2024?

    • Consider your preferred method: paper, laptop or phone? This will depend on when you plan to track your symptoms, the level of privacy you’re seeking, and whether you want insights and reports about your symptoms.

       

    • Consider the purpose of your symptom tracking: are you tracking for personal interest, to keep an up-to-date medical record, to manage your day-to-day well-being, or to share information with a medical professional?

       

    • Consider how you want your data to be handled. If you’re using a digital solution to track your symptoms, always ensure your data is private and secure and that the solution can show evidence that it’s credible and effective.

       

    • Consider who’s recommending the symptom tracker. Has it been medically reviewed or empirically tested? Are there any recognisable organisations that recommend the symptom tracker? What do the users of the symptom tracker say about how it helps them with their goals and symptoms?

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

CBT for Depression

CBT for depression: Is it effective?

Published on 29th November 2022.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

Key points.

    • Around 9% of Americans struggle with depressive illnesses (such as major depression or bipolar disorder) and many opt for a combination of medication and talking therapy to help tackle it head on.

    • CBT is a type of talking therapy that is often recommended for depression or anxiety. It’s a little different than other types of talking therapy as it focuses on the present.

    • Like most treatments for depression, CBT isn’t instantly effective or a cure-all. However, it has been found effective for mild to moderate clinical depression.

    • There are lots of different CBT exercises, but they commonly focus around how to re-frame unhelpful and unrealistic thoughts by focusing on facts and evidence rather than habits and opinions.

Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash.

With 1 in 4 of us struggling with mental illness, lots of us are no stranger to periods of low moods. Around 9% of Americans struggle with depressive illnesses (such as major depression or bipolar disorder) and many opt for a combination of medication and talking therapy to help tackle it head on. You might have heard of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy already (if you haven’t, don’t worry, we’ll explain exactly how it works later) but is it an effective option for those living with depression? Let’s take a look.

What is depression?

Many of us feel fed up or experience low moods from time to time. It’s completely normal (especially in the world we’re living in right now!). But depression is much more than that. Depression is feeling of sadness that lasts for long periods of time. It can cause emotional changes, feelings of hopelessness and even physical symptoms too. 

“Clinical depression is debilitating and prolonged. Feelings of deep persistent sadness, loss of pleasure in doing things and becoming withdrawn amongst others, are present almost every day for at least two weeks and affects a person’s ability to work, carry out usual daily activities and have satisfying personal relationships. “ says Dr Noreen Nguru-Berkou, Founder of What The Doctor Recommends.

What are the common causes and symptoms of depression?

Depression can impact people in lots of different ways. Firstly, it can impact your emotions. Your mood might be constantly low and you might feel hopeless and teary (and not just at that kitten video on Tiktok!). It might feel as if nothing excites you and, as a result, you might lose interest in things you previously loved doing. 

That’s because depression can really suck the enjoyment out of life-which is why it’s really important to seek help for it as soon as you can. In case of severe depression, people may have suicidal thoughts or think about harming themselves. In these cases, it is vital to seek urgent medical attention without delay.

It’s also really common to experience physical symptoms of depression too. 

“The most common physical symptoms that clients describe are of a musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal nature. These range from frequent headaches, tight neck and shoulder muscles, vague aches and pains, fatigue and exhaustion, changes in their bowel habit (either constipation or diarrhea), changes in appetite (either binge-eating or loss of appetite) and for most, sleep disturbance (either insomnia or difficulty waking up), “ says Dr Noreen Nguru-Berkou.

All of these symptoms can have a huge impact on your life-including your work and relationships with others.

When it comes to the cause of depressions, that’s where things get a little trickier. Depression can happen for all sorts of different reasons; from a stressful life event to a certain time in your life (e.g. postnatal depression). Depression can also run in families:  if your parent or sibling has major depression, you’re 2 or 3 times more likely to develop it compared to the average person.

What is CBT?

CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It’s a type of talking therapy that is often recommended for depression or anxiety. It might be suggested you try this first or do it along with taking an antidepressant.

It’s a little different than other types of talking therapy you might have heard of, since it doesn’t delve into the past but instead centres around the present.

“CBT understands how problems can be maintained by looking at the interaction between our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and behaviours. There are lots of different CBT exercises, but they commonly focus around how to re-frame unhelpful and unrealistic thoughts by focusing on facts and evidence rather than habits and opinions” says CBT therapist Navit Schechter.

How can I practice CBT?

CBT is usually delivered by a therapist in the first instance. You’ll likely see them regularly (such as once a week) for a course of treatments for a set period of time. The therapist will introduce practical exercises you can then use and implement outside of the session, to ensure you are equipped to deal with any worries and anxieties. Even after you’ve stopped these sessions, you might find you need to do these regularly to keep on top of your mental health.

“A typical CBT session will start by setting an agenda, where you and your therapist can decide together how to spend the session. CBT is a collaborative approach which means that you and your therapist will be working together jointly to help you overcome your difficulties. Your therapist will support you to understand the factors that are maintaining your difficulties and support you to put into practice the exercises and take the steps you need to overcome these. 

They will likely ask you open questions to help you to expand your awareness and develop new perspectives and should be unconditionally non-judgemental and compassionate, helping you to feel understood and supported. CBT sessions end by setting “homework” decided upon by you and your therapist which will help you to experience the benefits of sessions quickly,” explains CBT therapist Navit Schechter, founder of Conscious and Calm.

What can I expect from using CBT for depression?

Like most treatments for depression, CBT isn’t instantly effective or a cure-all. However, it has been found effective for mild to moderate clinical depression. For example, for every three patients that are treated with CBT, one will get better solely through therapy and combining it with antidepressants has been found more effective than just taking medication alone. 

As a CBT life coach myself, I would say the meta-reviewed evidence backs CBT as the most effective form of talking therapy for depression to date, either a stand-alone therapy for some forms of less severe forms of depression or in combination with medication. The method of delivery can range from computerized self-help CBT and group CBT to individual CBT.” says  Dr Noreen Nguru-Berkou.

However, some research has found it’s not effective for tackling severe depression by itself so your doctor may ask you to start taking an antidepressant first.

How do I know if CBT is the right treatment for my depression?

When it comes to mental health, we often have to do some experimenting to find the right approach for us. It’s important to stress that CBT may not be the right treatment if your depression is acute and severe; you may need to work with your medical team and revisit CBT when your depression is under control.

If your depression is mild and moderate, it could be time to research and learn about CBT and chat to a therapist before you begin to make sure you feel really comfortable. CBT does require regular time to meet with a therapist and to do follow-up homework. You’ll also need to be able to travel to a therapist (or find an online CBT therapist instead).

“CBT is relatively solution-focused and proactive so it’s great if you’re ready to make the changes you need, but are unsure how. It’s always worth having a conversation with a therapist to see whether you resonate with them and feel like they’d be able to support you in the way you need,” says CBT therapist Navit Schechter.

What are the benefits of tracking CBT and depression symptoms?

CBT isn’t a mental health miracle cure which is why it’s so important to keep an open mind about the process. 

Tracking your CBT sessions alongside your depressive symptoms may help you uncover subtle improvements to your mental health you hadn’t realized. You can use the notes section of Bearable to record information of your sessions or you might invest in a separate CBT notebook.

CBT can be a great potential for all mental health conditions and that includes depression. Whilst not a cure for depression, it may be an effective treatment in helping you deal with the intrusive, negative thoughts that can often accompany it.

Resources for people with Depression.

If you or someone you know is needs support for depression, know you’re not alone and help is out there. Below is a short list of resources available for people in the US & UK.

The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

Mental Health Disorder Statistics, John Hopkins Medical Center.
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/mental-health-disorder-statistics

Dr Noreen Nguru-Berkou, WhatTheDoctorRecommends.com.
http://www.WhatTheDoctorRecommends.com

Symptoms of Clinical Depression, NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/clinical-depression/symptoms/

The Link Between Depression and Physical Symptoms, Madhukar H. Trivedi, 2004.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC486942/

Major Depression and Genetics, Stanford Medicine.
https://med.stanford.edu/depressiongenetics/mddandgenes.html

CBT Therapist, Navit Schechter.
https://consciousandcalm.com/

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Mood Disorders: Efficacy, Moderators and Mediators, Driessen & Hollon, 2011.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2933381/

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