32 Songs That Have Helped People With PTSD Through Dark Times
Trauma is complex, and so is its aftermath. And while music cannot “cure” post-traumatic stress disorder, music therapy has shown positive results in helping relieve PTSD symptoms. For some, a song — or loud sounds at all — can be triggering, but for many, empowering and relatable lyrics or calming (or even heart-pumping) melodies help get them through hard periods with PTSD.
For music lovers with PTSD looking for some inspiration, we asked our mental health community for songs that have helped them through the aftermath of trauma. We hope some of these resonate with you. (At the bottom, you can view this playlist on Spotify.)
1. “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield
“My ma used to tell me over and over to listen to this song when I was feeling low. It’s a subtle reminder for me that there’s something to appreciate even when it feels like everything is dark. The metaphor is a little cliché, but it still rings true: you are the author of your story, and the rest is unwritten.” — Tas C.
2. “Let It Be” by The Beatles
“The music composition and Paul McCartney’s voice are so calming. The lyrics are super comforting, too. When I’m overwhelmed, this song helps me breathe.” — Ceci V.
3. “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
“Really, many things by Leonard Cohen are my dark time songs but… ‘Hallelujah’ specifically is the song I tend to play over and over, and I’ve started collecting covers of it since there are so many. I have entire playlists of nothing but different versions.” — Hilary H.
4. “Famous Last Words” by My Chemical Romance
“It helps me focus on life and overcoming the struggles I have had to deal with my PTSD every day. The character in the song is blinded by negative feelings, but they know they must overcome those negatives because life and living is so important.” — Sabrina G.
5. “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
“It motivates and inspires me to move forward…” — Stephanie F.
6. “Elastic Heart” by Sia
“This reminds me that every time I snap or break, I’m capable of getting back to myself. Because in a way, I do have an elastic heart and I don’t let those who put me down have the satisfaction of watching me fall apart.” — Ashley D.
7. “The Sound of Silence” by Disturbed
“It reminds me that everyone has their struggles and that there will always be someone out there to listen.” — Lianne J.
8. The “Hamilton” soundtrack
“Here’s why: it makes me forget I’m actually in the present and helps me imagine life 200 years ago. And it isn’t this whole, “Oh, I really like this soundtrack, it’s good.” It’s more like an obsession and it makes me feel decent about myself and forget about what I’m going through.” — Sofia S.
9. “Shepherd Moons” by Enya
“This instrumental has been my saving grace during so many challenging times. I can close my eyes and it literally takes me away to a peaceful place of calming waters.” — Kristall D.
10. “Until It Sleeps” by Metallica
“The song that is my own for everything that has happened to me is tattooed on my back. It sums up everything from nearly dying at my ex’s hands to the depression and anxiety I have today.” — Caroline W.
11. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem
“No matter what song comes on I can always ‘lose myself in the music, the moment’ and forget everything else. Music is so powerful!” — Kerry D.
12. “Colour Me In” by Damien Rice
“I went through a period during which I couldn’t listen to music at all because it was just too overwhelming for me, but now I’m enjoying music again — even though I’m still healing… Besides the waves of emotion in [this] song, I like to think it has a dual meaning — that if I’m feeling romantic, it’s a love song, but if I’m not, it’s just a song about loving oneself.” — Amber W.
13. “Stairway to Heaven” — Led Zeppelin
“I watched my father die at age 12, and my family thought it would be good for me to see him in his casket so I could see him at peace. When I went to the viewing, that song was playing. Afterwards, when I would get flashbacks and nightmares about his death, I would put ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on and remember his peaceful, almost smiling face in his casket and it would calm me and help the bad images fade.” — Brookah M.
14. “Hold On” — Wilson Phillips
“Oddly enough, this past Christmas I was on a downward spiral and barely holding on when I was flipping through the channels and came across the ending to the movie ‘Bridesmaids.’ Don’t know why I stopped, but did. Just then, Wilson Philips’ “Hold On’ came on, and it really did save me. Now anytime I hear it, I smile.” — Eddie C.
15. “White Blank Page” by Mumford & Sons
“To be honest though, the best thing for my PTSD is to create pieces of artwork. I find that painting and ceramics is my perfect therapy. Or even gardening!” — Candy S.
16. “Coming Undone” by Korn
“I actually was listening to it the night I had to run across the street to my neighbors and have her call the [police] on my now ex-husband. I was YouTubing that song when he broke my laptop. It gave me the strength to say, ‘Enough is enough and I shouldn’t have to feel that way!'” — Heather H.
17. “Self-Conclusion” by The Spill Canvas
“It’s probably going to sound weird because of the nature of the song, but [it] helped me through some of my darkest days. So much so, I got the lyrics tattooed on my body so I could be reminded forever that ‘You’re never supposed to act on it, no matter how unbearable this misery gets.'” — Amanda E.
18. “LDLHAIBCSYWA” by Twiztid
“It’s an unusual genre in this context perhaps, but that song is the most validating and closest to how I’ve felt. My PTSD wasn’t diagnosed until recently, so I lived my whole life thinking I was abnormal and alone in relation to my trauma. And that’s what the song more or less portrays. Not just the physical/mental aspects of being alone and how it spirals depression, but rather the raw feeling that is impossible to describe… It’s not a happy song. But it is a powerful song that resonates on levels I didn’t even know I had the capacity for.” — Jay P.
19. “Jumper” by Third Eye Blind
“Honestly, [this song] helped me so much more than you’d think. Between my PTSD and depression, that song always was there to remind me there’s more to live for. And the past doesn’t define who I am as a person. It also reminded me that I’m not the only one going through this and can make it through.” — Cali W.
20. “Goddess” by Banks
“It helps me to acknowledge the strength of the ‘Goddess’ inside — a reminder that I am worthy of this fight for myself. I find the lyrics are quite the analogy of the daily attempt at extracting myself from the depths of depression, anxiety and trauma. The shadows are always there somewhere, begging me to come back.” — Emily D.
21. “Survive” by Rise Against
“The lyrics really put things in perspective for me. I could have given up so easily, so many times… but I picked up the pieces, got help and pushed through. Everyone has a story and it’s shaped who they are. I hate what happened to me when I was a child, but I love the strong person I’ve become today because of it. ‘How we survive, is what makes us who we are.'” — Jess R.
22. “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees
“I feel like the best songs are ones you can scream to at the top of your lungs while dancing to forget your PTSD, anxiety, depression and panic disorders, or to motivate you.” — Kristy G.
23. “Take a Walk” by Passion Pit
“It helps me greatly knowing Michael (the lead singer) has written these wonderful songs during a not-so-great time in this life. It gives the songs a whole new meaning.” — Myka M.
24. “Rise” by Eddie Vedder
“When I feel like I’m not strong enough to cope with my PTSD, I listen to ‘Rise.’ The lyrics ‘burning black holes in dark memories, turning mistakes into gold’ always remind me that there is a future for me, I need to forgive myself and rise up towards health.” — Jessiah C.
25. “Live Before You Die” by Social Distortion
“This song has always been the song I turn to to motivate me when my symptoms are high.” — Kent W.
26. “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)” — Billy Joel
“Nighttime is hard for me, but Billy Joel’s lullaby gives me the love and protection I didn’t feel as a child.” — Emma R.
27. “You’ll Be Okay” by A Great Big World
“It reminds me that I can push through. Just like it says, the sun will rise to better days.” — Jessica K.
28. “My Ever Changing Moods” by Style Council
“It gives me the feel-good feeling I need to remember that I’m not in that place anymore and that things can change and get better.” — Marc A.
29. “Letting Go” by Sean Kingston feat. Nicki Minaj
“It made me realize I need to let go of the negativity and stop hating myself for what I cannot control. It gave me this overwhelming feeling of peace, and it calms me down when I hear it now. It makes the worries fade.” — Lex A.
30. “Fear” by Blue October
“An amazing song about overcoming fear and anxiety.” — Joanne V.
31. “Future Looks Good” by OneRepublic
“The chorus goes, ‘you are the future and the future looks good.’ Which is true.” — Celeste H.
32. “Be Alright” by Kehlani
“It reminds me everything will be OK. Been playing it a lot lately.” — Ahniyah R.
What songs would you add? Let us know in the comments below.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
Lead image via Facebook – OneRepublic, Kehlani