There are a new wave of self-care apps which are promising to help you get over your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend and to heal your broken heart. These apps seek to soothe the sting of loneliness for those who are newly single.

Some of these self-care apps include the following:

Mend’ is a self-care app that prioritizes the user’s relationship with themselves through journaling, logging daily self-care activities or by listening to audio trainings which enhance their mental health. It was created when the founder was experiencing the pains of heartbreak and needed something to help her in-between the therapy sessions.

Rx Breakup’ is a 30-day program that helps the users let go of negative patterns by compartmentalising their thoughts and feelings through analytical writing exercises. The founders of the app hopes to lead users away from unhealthy coping mechanisms to positive change.

Break Up Boss’ takes a different approach by steering the users away from giving in to the temptation of contacting their ex-es. There are multiple illustrations to remind users of the benefits of being single and motivational quotes on how the breakup can positively influence you. One of its main features is to allow users to vent their feelings in a fake text to their ex-es, so that they can vent their feelings without fear of embarrassing themselves.

The benefits?

The digital pocket coaches and therapists offered by phones are very popular. These apps come in a time when self-care is becoming an increasing part of millennial culture and that technology offers us instant availability to one another. Those who are nursing heartbreaks are able to move on in their own time without being limited to the psychologist’s office. 

The users who extol the benefits of the broken heart apps view them as a more accessible alternative to therapy. There are some who prefer in-person counselling, but either do not have mental health services in their health insurance or are unable to afford it entirely. These apps, in contrast, are usually free to use or are much cheaper than actual therapy sessions.

Furthermore, the easy access to one’s phones also makes it easier for users to find support and comfort when they are experiencing the pain of heartbreak. Some users report dealing with severe emotional pain and rejection at odd times in the day and night. Without these apps, they would either be calling their friends at odd hours or having to get through it alone without any support. However, the app is on their phone and they can find support when they want to.

Finally, another reason that users are preferring these apps is because the apps are not as pushy as their friends or family might be. Many facing heartbreaks have been told that they should just get over their ex-es and move on. Or perhaps, they are given a whole truckload of advice instead of being listened to. In contrast, the apps are not upset if their advice is not taken. Moreover, they allow for a completely non-judgmental expression of feelings without feeling weary or awkwardness.

Limitations to Breakup Apps?

Understandably, psychotherapeutic professionals have raised some questions about the apps designed to help users cope with heartbreak. The text messages that are not sent out and methods or journalling have been described as methods of cathartic release of emotions. However, therapeutic professionals have commented that there is no space for face-to-face feedback and discussion, and thus the personal journey with the apps may be very one-dimensional.

Further, therapists have warned that the apps may not be equipped at looking at past relationship dynamics. For instance, if the user’s previous relationship failed because of an unresolved need to avoid all conflict, then the apps would not help the user become more comfortable with confrontations. In this way, there may not be any therapeutic growth preparing users for the next relationship.

On a more fundamental level, perhaps the breakup apps are taking away from the social learning that one can have from breakups. Since we often learn from our mistakes, the pain of rejection from heartbreaks can help us to adjust our behaviour accordingly. As the old adage goes, perhaps only time (or a new lover) can truly heal us from our heartbreaks.

YouTube: Can AI replace therapy?

Questions for further personal evaluation: 

  1. If you were going through a heartbreak, what would make you want to use an app? What features would be important for you?
  2. To what extent do you think self-care apps can replace in-person therapeutic or wellness sessions? Explain.

Useful vocabulary: 

  1. extol’: praise enthusiastically
  2. cathartic’: providing psychological relief through the open expression of strong emotions

Here are more related articles for further reading:

  1. The Guardian: Neuroscience offers new treatment for broken hearts

Retraining your brain with electrical wires is not for everyone. Brian Earp, a researcher in psychology, philosophy and ethics at the University of Oxford, believes a more straightforward chemical intervention – or “anti-love biotechnology” – will soon be readily available for people struggling with the loss of a partner.

“The scary thing is that anti-love biotechnology is already here,” he says. “It’s happening as a side-effect of currently used medications, but western medicine tends not to systematically study the interpersonal effects of common drugs, so we have little idea of the true scope of the problem.

“But based on numerous case reports backed up by pharmacological and neuroscientific research, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs, a common type of antidepressant] can sometimes have a ‘blunting’ effect on people’s ability to care about the feelings of others – including their romantic partners.”

Earp stresses that SSRIs can often be helpful for a relationship if depression has been causing problems between a couple. But it seems they may also help with muting the depression that can follow a failed one.

Both Earp and Fisher are quick to point out the ethical problems of actual anti-love biotechnology. If a cure for heartbreak were to be marketed and developed – which they believe is one day likely – there are concerns about how it would be used, and by whom. “Might drugs one day be used to intentionally sever a romantic bond?” asks Earp. “We would need to agree on an ethical framework for handling such cases.”

  1. Splinter: a user’s foray into apps meant to mend a broken heart

I was ultimately disappointed in what technology had to offer when it comes to heartache. This is one of the problems that Silicon Valley doesn’t seem to care about.

The truth is, there isn’t (yet) a quick tech fix for a breakup. Even if you unfollow, unfriend and restrain yourself from the temptation of cyberstalking, our technologies still hold onto traces of our relationships.

I logged into Instacart the other day and on checkout realized it had defaulted to a store in John’s zipcode. Once, when boarding a flight, instead of my boarding pass, the iPhone’s Passbook app served up the tickets for an event my ex and I had gone to the night before we broke up. In an instant I went from totally fine to completely unglued. Around every corner of our digital worlds lurks a new opportunity for heartache. Algorithms never forget.