If you live with anxiety, you may have already discovered that music can soothe many of your anxious thoughts. When physical or emotional symptoms become overwhelming, your favorite songs or a relaxing playlist might help you find a sense of calm.
You might also feel somewhat relieved to realize you aren’t alone. Knowing others have faced similar anxious thoughts can offer some measure of comfort and help you cope.
Listening to songs about anxiety, like the 16 listed below, can help normalize your experience and replace feelings of isolation with a sense of connection and solidarity.
Lyrics can have multiple interpretations, of course. We’ve settled on these songs from a range of genres because their lyrics describe, in some way, what living with anxiety can feel like.
“Crucify” by Tori Amos
Amos’ poetic, confessional lyrics are open to many interpretations, but if you have social anxiety, you may find plenty to identify with in “Crucify.”
The opening lines, “Every finger in the room is pointing at me,” might resonate if you’ve ever entered a room feeling self-conscious, only to feel as if a spotlight has suddenly snapped on to illuminate you further.
But it’s the refrain of “Why do we crucify ourselves” that brings to mind the endless analysis of looping anxious thoughts. You know it doesn’t help, but you still can’t stop dissecting them.
“The Fear” by The Shins
Anxiety doesn’t always have a clear trigger. Sometimes it’s just a pressing fear you live with, a “fear of all the stupid things” you could feel.
“The Young Thousands” by the Mountain Goats
Living with anxiety often means grappling with fears of what the future holds. You might often feel consumed by “the things you’ve got coming,” as John Darnielle sings.
Maybe the worry and stress you experience leaves you with a “dull pain” that never seems to recede, or your brain sometimes feels like a closet where you’ve stashed videotapes of anxiety-inducing memories, or “sordid little scenes in living color.”
“Map of the Problematique” by Muse
This song conveys the frustration you might face when you feel as if every choice you make is the wrong one. Various possibilities play out and seem to pass you by as you struggle to find a way to escape feelings of fear, panic, and despair.
“Concertina” by Tori Amos
Amos has explained in interviews that this song highlights her own experience with social anxiety, or walking into a room and feeling “so uncomfortable you’re crawling out of your skin, even though nobody’s touched you.”
The lyrics “a fever above my waist” and “a chill that bends” might describe the sweating and chills that often accompany anxiety, while “you’re the fiercest calm I’ve been in” seems to address anxiety directly.
When nervousness and worry rages inside to the point where you’re sure everyone can see it plainly on your face, you might be surprised to realize just how unruffled you seem to others.
“Basket Case” by Green Day
If you turned on the radio once or twice in the late ’90s and early 2000s, you’ve probably heard this song before.
It’s not at all uncommon to struggle with anxiety for some time before you find a way to make sense of what you’re going through. You might even wonder, like Armstrong, whether it’s all in your head or if your mind is “playing tricks” on you.
(But if you’re not sure what your symptoms mean, a therapist can offer more guidance.)
“Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” by Styx
This song helps convey the pessimism that often accompanies anxiety, or the tendency to consider things through “cynical eyes.” Even when things are actually going pretty well, you might have trouble moving forward when anxiety leaves your hands “wet with sweat” and “your head needs a rest.”
Still, the lyrics emphasize the importance of remembering that others can’t defeat you and giving your “best shot” anyway.
“Paperbag Writer” by Radiohead
The opening line, “Blow into this paper bag,” evokes someone trying to manage feelings of panic, as breathing into a paper bag has long been upheld as a helpful technique for the hyperventilation that can happen during anxiety and panic attacks.
“Take your armor off, you’re not under attack” illustrates the key symptom of panic attacks: an overwhelming perception of fear that doesn’t relate to any real threat.
“Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.
Michael Stipe has said this song refers not to religion, but unrequited love — an experience that often causes intense feelings of anxiety and frustration.
What’s more, lyrics like “I’ve said too much / I haven’t said enough” and “Every whisper, of every waking hour / I’m choosing my confessions” echo the experience of anxiety pretty clearly.
You likely know the feeling — you can’t find the right words, so you keep talking, perhaps in the hopes that you can finally get your feelings across. But then you may worry endlessly that you tried too hard or said too much.
“A Million Little Pieces” by Placebo
Anxiety can disrupt concentration and make it tough to navigate challenges as you usually would. “A Million Little Pieces” touches on how it feels when you think you’ve lost your spark, your creativity, and you’re struggling to find a way forward. You might feel haunted by mistakes, or tired of trying to work through them without any relief.
But it’s also possible to find a hopeful note in the song: You can leave this “worry town” and break the cycle of anxious thinking.
“The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World
Radio stations in the early 2000s reverberated with this empowering anthem to staying true to yourself and overcoming social anxiety.
Of course, navigating an overwhelming fear of rejection isn’t always as simple as telling yourself that the perception of people looking down on you is all in your head.
Still, it’s good advice to start with, even if you do need a little extra support to shake off worries about what people might say about you. And the catchy beat doesn’t hurt if you’re looking for a quick mood-boosting tune.
“Red Light Fever” by Liz Phair
Maybe you know the shape you want your life to take. Still, your worries hold you back, keeping you stuck in your head, “going nowhere,” and nervous about committing to your dreams and taking the first steps to achieve them.
“Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine
Isn’t it wonderful how anxiety makes it so easy to reflect on every humiliating moment and embarrassing situation you’ve ever found yourself in?
The lyrics of “Shake It Out” don’t just echo the experience of reliving your “darkest moments” when those memories “collect like old friends.” They also emphasize the difficulty of shaking off those memories and leaving the past behind.
“Disturbia” by Rihanna
If you have anxiety yourself, you might have some familiarity with thoughts that “creep up inside you” and “consume you,” or fears that you “don’t want to think about” that grab you and hold on, all the same.
You might even hope, as she sings, for something to release you from the “curse” of worry and fear.
“Anxiety” by Bmike
This song offers an in-depth, personal look at the challenges often involved with getting professional support and finding the right treatment for anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and other emotional distress.
Bmike also touches on how frustrating it can feel when talk therapy doesn’t seem to work despite the effort put in, and the therapist seems somewhat out of touch with your distress.
He notes in the YouTube description that the music video aims to increase awareness about mental health concerns and highlight the stigma many people experience.
“Fear of the Dark” by Iron Maiden
This song describes the uneasiness and fear that build when “the light begins to change” and darkness gathers, whether you feel as if someone (or something) might be following you through a darkened street or lurking in the corner of your bedroom at night.
Music might have a positive impact on your mood, but it won’t resolve the underlying causes of anxiety.
If you’re having a hard time managing symptoms of anxiety on your own, a trained mental health professional can provide more insight on possible triggers and help you explore new ways to cope.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.