Anxiety is a universal feeling. For those who suffer from extreme anxiety, though, this universal feeling can often feel like it has no real outlet. Fortunately, music’s there as always to provide a bit of commiseration, if not relief. Below are ten of the best songs about living with anxiety.
“Breathin'” by Ariana Grande
If you’ve ever had an anxiety attack in public, you’ve probably been told by those around you to breathe. This song from Ariana Grande is an ode to that – to the feeling of being overwhelmed and overdone that leads to being able to focus on nothing more than your breath.
The song also tackles the complexities of life that lead to feeling overwhelmed, especially the feeling that just having one thing go right can at least temporarily soothe all of your problems.
“Help” by The Beatles
Help is an iconic song by an iconic band, but it’s also a song that’s very easy to read as being about feelings of anxiety. The feeling of helplessness and the resulting gratitude felt by many when someone notices are on display in this song, with the catchy lyrics hiding a lot of pain.
Even Paul McCartney has gone so far as to confirm that the lyrics are based on real-life, giving listeners a look into the emotions behind the song.
“Trouble” by Hamish Anderson
Ever feel like fear and anxiety are following you, closing in and no one seems to notice or care? Hamish Anderson wrote his song Trouble about this feeling which many people with anxiety experience.
“American Screams” by Arkells
In our interview with the Arkells frontman Max Kerman we asked them the inspiration for their single “American Screams.” It was based on the anxiety they saw they saw touring around the country, “We drive around the US a lot and we saw all these apocalyptic billboards about God and the end of the world.” With lyrics like this, it’s a testament to a land filled with deep anxiety.
“Overkill” by Colin Hay
If you’ve ever spent a sleepless night wandering around town because your brain just wouldn’t stop working, Overkill will speak to you. This song by Colin Hay is probably best known for being featured in an episode of Scrubs, but it’s an incredibly relatable song for anyone who has ever spent too much time thinking too hard about things that might not deserve quite so much brainpower.
“Waving Through a Window” by Dear Evan Hansen
Dear Evan Hansen is one of those musicals that replicates a certain type of high school anxiety that’s almost too hard to watch for those who have been there. Waving Through a Window is one of the most real songs about social anxiety, featuring not only the stress that comes with feeling invisible but also the longing that accompanies being outside the spotlight. While you won’t hear it on the radio, this song will definitely speak to those who feel anxious in group situations.
“Crawling” by Linkin Park
Plenty of Linkin Park’s lyrics are about depression and anxiety, but few of them are as visceral as crawling. With its evocative lyrics, it nails the feeling of uncomfortableness that many have in their own skins, with the pain of anxiety creating a constant wound that never seems to go away.
Driven and angry, it’s also a song about anxiety that’s less about mourning a lack of normal functionality and more about raging against the feelings themselves.
“BasketCase” by Green Day
Green Day has a number of songs in their catalog about feeling depressed or otherwise unwell and Basketcase is among the best of the bunch. It makes use of a simple musical structure to take listeners through a whirlwind ride through the singer’s anxiety – moving from wondering if he’s overstepping by sharing to detailing all the failed attempts he’s made to manage his anxiety. If you’ve ever tried to go through self-help steps to get past your anxious feelings, you’ll probably find something with which you can identify here.
“Unwell” by Matchbox 20
Matchbox 20’s catalog isn’t exactly full of songs about mental health, but Unwell is a rare exception that talks about feeling a little bit unwell. The feeling of being unable to sleep, of being on the road to a breakdown even though you just can’t quite say why – these are common among those who deal with anxiety and echoed well in the song.
The song even touches a bit on the paranoia that comes with feeling not quite right, with the lyrics about even strangers on the train knowing that you’re just not at your best.
“The World at Large” by Modest Mouse
With thoughts so loud that they overwhelm speech, Modest Mouse’s song about anxiety is all about the problems that come from getting stuck in a loop. Instead of making constructive changes, the singer is stuck in a pattern of starting over that is supported by intrusive thoughts and an inability to break out.
Though this can certainly be applied to depression as well, the lyrics of this song should ring true to anyone who has ever failed to move forward with their lives due to anxiety.
“Paranoid” by Black Sabbath
While Paranoid is definitely a track that focuses on paranoia, it’s also one that hits the nail on the head about anxiety. Thinking about things all day that never quite make life better?
Feeling insane if you can’t find a way to stop that intrusive thought? Those are key parts of the anxiety experience, put to the kind of driving background guitar that really makes the listener feel like he or she is skidding out of control. This classic song is about a lot of things, but it certainly feels like it was made to talk about anxiety.
“Help I’m Alive” by Metric
A heart beating out of control and a protagonist that feels like any misstep will send an angry horde down on the classic symptoms of anxiety that are the core of Metric’s song.
Help I’m Alive is all about the racing heart of a person who is dealing with a type of anxiety that has spiraled out of control, leaving the listener to identify with the physical symptoms that are so common among those who suffer from severe anxiety.
“Anxiety” by Jason Isbell
If you’ve ever felt anxiety keeping you from being present and enjoying the moment, Jason Isbell has got you covered. In the lyrics, he struggles with social engagements and even his marriage, while the guitars evoke an uneasy tension.
Isbell has said he collaborated with his wife to help convey the weight of panic attack-inducing moments. He wanted the song to mean something to listeners affected by anxiety in all its shapes and forms.
“Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger
With a somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach, “Flagpole Sitta” laments everything from losing faith in your fellow man to heartache. Throughout, the weight of the world seems crushing to vocalist Sean Nelson. Who could forget the image of his eyes twitching back and forth in the video while singing, “Paranoia, paranoia/Everybody’s coming to get me”?
“Rose-Colored Boy” by Paramore
As songs about anxiety go, Paramore’s entry stands out for its dancey vibe and infectious beat. However, underneath all of that are lyrics about being forced to feign happiness when overcome with sadness.
In the music video, vocalist Hayley Williams plays a struggling news anchor. In one scene, she finds herself in a claustrophobic chamber of screens telling her to “smile more,” “be happy,” and “drink more coffee.” It’s not long before she explodes in anger.
“Mind Playing Tricks On Me” by the Geto Boys
While gangsta rap was thriving in the early ’90s, the bravado and aggression required left little room for mental health considerations. The Geto Boys changed that with “Mind Playing Tricks On Me,” a song that spoke to the paranoia and angst that came with the lifestyle.
Accompanied by a thumping beat, the lyrics reveal a layer of vulnerability beneath all of that machismo. The song not only references the constant threat of violence stemming from gang life but also vocalist Scarface’s time in a psych ward after threatening to harm himself.
“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
“The Message” was a landmark record for many reasons. Not only did it bring hip-hop closer to the forefront, but it also brought its message of inner-city poverty and social inequity. It didn’t shy away from the effect that could have on a person’s psyche: “Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge/I’m trying not to lose my head.”
“In The Garage” by Weezer
While Weezer’s landmark 1994 self-titled album (also known as “The Blue Album”) was loaded with songs about anxiety, there may be none more prevalent than album closer “In The Garage.”
Songwriter Rivers Cuomo has written plenty about difficulty with feelings of social inadequacy. Here, his garage serves as his refuge from all of that. Whether it be his X-Men posters, his Dungeons and Dragons set, or his beloved electric guitar, they’re all waiting there to provide relief and comfort.
“Come As You Are” by Nirvana
Over a brooding and foreboding guitar riff, Kurt Cobain spends “Come As You Are” describing all the contradictions in how we are meant to act and behave. Further, the lyrics examine the way people act and behave towards us and how we choose how to trust.
All these uncertainties come together to form a cocktail of anxiety. Of course, all of this is without mentioning the song’s haunting refrain. While Cobain always wrote with a wry sense of humor, his suffering reveals itself here.
“Shake It Out” by Florence + the Machine
When singer Florence Welch dances her way through the lively chorus of “Shake It Out,” it’s difficult to recall feelings of anxiety. That’s just the point — it’s her remedy to the crushing weight of anxious thoughts.
The choruses clash against verses that call upon a listener’s darkest moments, the grieving thoughts they feel they simply cannot escape from. If you find this relatable, perhaps you could stand to shake it out yourself.
“Disturbia” by Rihanna
Rihanna has not been shy about her battles with anxiety in the past. She even confessed to leaving the Grammy awards before performing due to struggling with anxiety. That was in 2016, but she’s made reference to the condition as far back as 2007’s “Disturbia.”
With its dark tone and the accompanying video’s equally dark aesthetic, Rihanna’s vocal cycles through anxiety-inducing pieces of imagery. The song can be a little nebulous in its messaging, but feelings of restlessness and being trapped are heavily strewn through the lyrics.
“In My Blood” by Shawn Mendes
Like many young artists, Shawn Mendes has been vocal about de-stigmatizing anxiety and mental illness. He’s been outspoken about his battles and has extolled the benefits of therapy. In 2018 he released “In My Blood,” a song explicitly about the burden of anxiety.
In the lyrics, Mendes normalizes the condition. He reminds the listener that even when the walls are caving in and you feel you can’t possibly be alone, that’s not the entirety of who you are. He repeats the mantra that these inner conflicts are not in his blood.
‘Growing Pains’ By Alessia Cara
Alessia Cara expresses various feelings in this 2018 release. This is among the top songs about anxiety that examines all the stresses and emotions that an adult faces, and while everyone expects them to know the answer, they don’t.
They are trying to figure out what is happening within them and navigate through that confusion. The opening background conversation amplifies the fact that Alessia is all alone to deal with what she is feeling.
‘Sober’ By Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato has had addiction battles and has undergone bullying and self-harm from her teen years to her young adulthood. Her rise to fame from a young age with the inability to manage her lifestyle healthily contributed to her addiction and negative self-image. Though she inspired many young people from her acting days on the Disney Channel and when she was undergoing her life battles.
The song Sober is Demi’s confession of relapse after being sober for five years. The song is hauntingly sad and a cry for help. Even though she is remorseful, she is hopeless that she could be better.
‘Save Myself’ By Ed Sheeran
This Ed Sheeran song is about giving so much to other people and the disappointment that comes from not getting from them a fraction of what you have shared. He refers to having a drink to forget the pain of having no one to save him. He will need to save himself. People with anxiety and depression battle with feelings of low self-worth, and they tend to over-extend themselves to be deemed worthy.
This song talks about the slow recognition that only he can save himself. Ed’s voice is the focus of the song with little instrumental accompaniment. It emphasizes the weight of the song. The accompanying video of the close-up of a girl’s eyes, while she cries, helps to bring to life the lyrics. The poignant piano playing accompanying the lyrics contributes to the weight of disappointment that Ed feels.
‘Perfect’ By Anne-Marie
This upbeat Ann Marie song deals with body shaming and how much it has become a part of our culture. Society sets impossible beauty standards, and when people do not meet them, they feel like they are failures or aren’t good enough.
This song shows that people do not have to feel bad about how they look, that they determine how to think about themselves based on what feels beautiful for them.
‘1-800-273-825’ By Logic Ft. Alessia Cara, Khalid
This 2017 song by Logic is about a person who wants to commit suicide, and they have called a hotline. It talks about the seeming never-ending anxiety and feeling of being dead rather than alive and wanting to end it all. It then morphs to a hopeful ending that reminds us that life is precious and if someone is struggling with dealing with suicidal thoughts, they need to get help.
‘Stressed Out’ By A Tribe Called Quest Featuring Faith Evans
This 2017 release from the New York-based group A Tribe Called Quest is all about the stress of everyday life. It talks about her things can get overwhelming with problems popping up one after another without a break.
But the Faith Evans featured song is also hopeful where they recognize that one day they will make it and things will not always be so hard.
‘Head Above Water’ By Avril Lavigne
Avril’s song head Above Water is about her battle against Lyme Disease. This 2018 song is genuine and honest, detailing her suffering and how she’s begging for strength to cope amid her distress.
Avril currently uses the song to raise awareness about her sickness and fundraise for other Lyme Disease patients. It is an inspiration to draw strength from God and deep within ourselves when in anxious moments.
“Fix You” By Coldplay
Fix You by the Chris Martin-led British band Coldplay is a song about grief. Christ wrote it after his then-wife, actress Gwyneth Paltrow lost her father in 2002. This song, like most songs about anxiety, starts by narrating a hopeless situation with no progress, which leads to withdrawal from everything.
The second verse speaks of the death of a loved one, and the emotions evoking song ends by Chris declaring that amidst the grief, he will learn from the mistakes.
“24/7” By Kehlani
Kehlani speaks of moments of anxiety and feeling anxious in her 2016 song. The song is empathetic and declares that it is okay not to be okay. It also shows us that everyone gets to a place where they are not okay.
‘Lovely” By Billie Eilish Feat. Khalid
The song talks about being torn apart by negative feelings and not being able to leave. The dark video that only features Billie Elish and Khalid drives the point of being bound by negative emotions that they want to let go of but are in bondage.