26 Songs That Perfectly Describe These 9 Symptoms of Anxiety
Article updated on February 19, 2020.
Feeling anxious is a common emotion that comes and goes for many, but for those with anxiety disorders, experiencing anxiety doesn’t feel as temporary. Anxiety disorders are characterized by cognitive and physical symptoms like:
- Panic Attacks
- Tense Muscles or Physical Pain
- Racing Thoughts
- Irrational Fear
- Worrying About the Worst-Case Scenario
- Intrusive Thoughts
While music isn’t a “cure” for mental illnesses like anxiety, oftentimes it can be therapeutic. In fact, according to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), health professionals who specialize in music therapy can use music to address the physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of patients. It can also be useful for folks who struggle to express their feelings in words.
But sometimes, even listening to music by ourselves can relax us and give us natural relief from anxiety. Oftentimes our go-to “anxiety songs” can perfectly describe what it’s like to live with anxiety symptoms. To get more specific about how music can describe anxiety, we asked members of our Mighty community to share songs that represent their experience with some classic symptoms. What songs relate to your own journey with anxiety? Let us know in the comments below.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
When you think of anxiety, the first symptom that probably comes to mind is overthinking. Overthinking can come in the form of excessive worry about accomplishing everyday tasks or thinking too far in the future or the past. Below are some songs that describe what it’s like to struggle with overthinking.
“Unwell” by Matchbox 20
“It is not my genre of song, but when I heard it, it was as if that song was made for me.” — Jocelyn B.
“Complicated” by Avril Lavigne
“[It’s] a song I hear and think about myself when I’m overthinking situations and turn into someone I’m not.” — Madelyn H.
“Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men
“My overthinking happens most at night, especially when the house is seemingly quiet. Every creak and groan of the house echoes the unrest and struggle in my head.” — Cecilia C.
2. Panic Attacks
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), a panic attack is an abrupt onset of intense fear followed by physical symptoms like sweating, trembling, feelings of choking and chills. Members of The Mighty community shared the following songs because they encapsulate what it’s like to feel out of control during a panic attack.
“Numb” by Linkin Park
“I believe Linkin Park has many songs that resonate with those with mental illness. Sadly, Chester Bennington (the lead singer of Linkin Park) died by suicide, and I believe most of his lyrics are very poignant examples of his struggles. In ‘Numb,’ the line that hits me most is: ‘Can’t you see that you’re smothering me? Holding too tightly, afraid to lose control…’ When my attacks begin, I can’t breathe and it feels like I’m being squeezed, smothered or drowning, and I can’t control how my body reacts to the panic I feel.” — Laurynn B.
“Breaking Down” by Florence + the Machine
“Anxiety is something that is always there, though I may not feel it. And when panic attacks hit, it literally causes me to break down.” — Victoria M.
“Alone In a Room” by Asking Alexandria
“First, because it’s upbeat and loud. Second, because the chorus hits me hard. It’s so true that the thing I need to get through a panic attack is the last thing I want.” — Brandi M.
People with anxiety tend to be comfort-seekers, so they often avoid situations that cause anxiety. Unfortunately this can make aversions stronger, so it’s important to combat triggers with the help of a therapist who specializes in treating anxiety. The following songs show what it’s like to struggle with avoidance — whether that be through avoiding social situations, or trying to escape from everyday triggers.
“The World at Large” by Modest Mouse
“This song is about how we get absorbed by our thoughts and the constant repetition of a daily routine and how we try to use different things as means of escapism… I also like the mellow, soothing melody in it…” — Mary J.
“What Now” by Rihanna
“‘There’s no one to turn to cause I’m just playing games with them all… The more I say I’m happy the more that I’m feeling alone.’ Her words explain it.” — Jami M.
“The Lonely” by Christina Perri
“The lyric, ‘Let you go and let the lonely in, to take my heart again,’ just hits me hard when I just don’t think I’m worthy enough to be with people or things.” — Victoria M.
4. Tense Muscles or Physical Pain
Though anxiety is technically a “mental” illness, it usually comes with a fair number of physical symptoms too. The following songs articulate what it’s like to struggle to breathe and feel physically drained due to anxiety.
“Breathin” by Ariana Grande
“It basically explains the physical pain of not being able to breathe and how anxiety can drain all of your energy and make you feel physically ill. I personally suffer from both of those symptoms very frequently, so it helps me to feel better.” — Rachel G.
“Crawling” by Linkin Park
“It describes my anxiety so perfectly. In those moments I feel like I’m crawling in my skin and feel like my wounds will not heal.” — Shana S.
“Breathe Me” by Sia
“It connects with me when I feel like I can’t breathe and all I am is air to be forgotten about by someone else’s lungs. It’s a calling out to many symptoms of anxiety and the toll it takes on you.” — Victoria M.
Hypervigilance is an increased state of alertness that is meant to protect someone from danger. In folks who have anxiety or a past traumatic experience, hypervigilance can remain even if a threat has passed. The songs our community recommended to describe this symptom show what it’s like to always be on “high alert.”
“Where Is My Mind?” by The Pixies
‘Where is my mind’ by The Pixies because when my anxiety gets to me, I just don’t think straight and my thoughts are everywhere.” — Victoria J.
“Viva La Vida” by Coldplay
“[I relate to the lyrics], ‘One minute I held the key, next the walls were closed on me. And I discovered that my castles stand, upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand.’ For me, one minute I’ll be doing OK and then in a snap, I’m hyper-aware and afraid of my surroundings.” — Victoria M.
6. Racing Thoughts
Much like overthinking, racing thoughts can be debilitating for people with anxiety. The songs below emphasize how nightmarish racing thoughts can feel, especially if you keep going over the same thoughts again and again.
“Gasoline” by Halsey
“‘You can’t wake up, this is not a dream.’ My racing thoughts are all-consuming and they’re like a living nightmare I can’t escape from.” — Aylah H.
“Inner Demons” by Julia Brennan
“This song perfectly describes what these thoughts are like and how sometimes you just want to be free. It’s one of my favorite songs because I relate to it really well!” — Alyssa B.
“Tell Me You Love Me” by Demi Lovato
“I need constant assurance that he loves me. There are times I am afraid he’ll leave because of things I say or do. Some days I just need to know… that he loves me.” — Demi L.
7. Irrational Fear
Anxiety is strongly linked to fear, so it makes sense that people with anxiety are inordinately consumed by irrational fears. Though these fears may stem from a past experience (for example, losing a friend might contribute to a fear of abandonment), someone with anxiety usually overestimates the probability of their fear happening. The following songs identify what it’s like to feel like irrational fears are holding you back.
“Holding Onto You” by twenty one pilots
“It helps me realize these irrational fears and such may be a big part of my life, but I don’t let it define me. I always relate the ‘and I’ll be holding on to you’ lyric to the positive things in my life such as family and friends who continue to help me.” — Katie R.
“Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley
“I am so frightened of being left, not being good enough and people giving up… because of my borderline disorder, I already feel like I have given up on myself.” — Beverly C.
“Shake It Out” by Florence + the Machine
“Whenever I feel an irrational fear, I think about how that fear might be holding me back.” — Victoria M.
8. Worrying About the Worst-Case Scenario
If anxiety causes you to constantly prepare for the “worst-case” scenario, you’re not alone. You might relate to the following songs that talk about what it feels like to struggle to break the habit of expecting the worst thing to happen.
“Breaking The Habit” by Linkin Park
“The most frustrating thing I find is feeling like my behavior is making me into a person I don’t want to be. The song reminds me to put strength into changing — that there are more reasons to go against the anxious instincts than there are to following them.” — Matthew K.
“Follow You” by Bring Me the Horizon
“My head is usually overwhelmed and ‘feel so far from home’ literally and figuratively because when my anxiety is bad, I don’t feel grounded and it’s like I’m watching myself from far away through a tunnel. ‘Cross your heart and hope to die’ refers to the heart attack-like panic symptoms making me feel like I’m going to die… ‘Promise me you’ll never leave my side’ referring to the split moment of comfort I may feel from a friend/blanket/whatever makes me feel safe in that moment.” — Gwendolyn R.
“I’m Not the Only One” by Sam Smith
“My anxiety due to being cheated on in the past always tortures my relationships. It makes me feel I’m not worthy and that no one really wants to be committed to me.” — Heather M.
9. Intrusive Thoughts
According to ADAA, intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts that cause people with anxiety great distress. They seem to come out of nowhere, and can be hard to get rid of. If you know what it’s like to have unwanted thoughts you can’t shake, you might relate to the songs listed below.
“Heavy” by Linkin Park feat. Kiiara
“It’s the perfect demonstration of how scary and frustrating the anxiety is. I sing it as loud as I can when I hear it and it pops into my mind when the anxiety is really bad… like tonight.” — Sam M.
“Demons” by Imagine Dragons
“To me this song is about not letting people get too close or not letting people in because of my illness and because of not wanting to bring people down with me. I feel like my illnesses have caused so many problems for me and others. Even after years of living with my anxiety and depression, I still find it difficult to let people in and to be open about how I am feeling or what might be bothering me.” — Victoria M.
“Help I’m Alive” by Metric
“This song often transports me back to when I first experienced anxiety and intrusive thoughts at only 11 years old. It was an extremely scary time; I was only a child and l was already feeling that something was trying to eat me alive from within… It’s still a uphill battle, even in my 30s, but hearing songs lyrics like these reassure me that I am far from alone.” — Alihanra G.
What would you add?