Poems About Anxiety

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated June 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Sometimes, experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition can be isolating. It may seem like no one understands how you feel or has faced the same challenges. That’s why some people find turning to art to be calming and even healing. Many people have experienced anxiety throughout history and over 30% of US adults experience some form of it today, so there’s plenty of literature, poetry, music, and visual art out there that describes the experience and can help you feel seen. 

Below, you’ll find a few poems that discuss anxiety or related emotions and experiences, which you may find helpful if you’re facing symptoms of anxiety yourself. Remember that seeking professional treatment for symptoms of any mental health disorder is usually recommended.

Experiencing symptoms of anxiety?

About anxiety and anxious feelings 

First, let’s take a quick overview anxiety. In the general sense, anxiety is a normal feeling that most people will experience from time to time. It can be described as “an emotion characterized by apprehension and somatic symptoms of tension in which an individual anticipates impending danger, catastrophe, or misfortune.”

While it’s expected to experience a temporary sense of anxiety before a job interview or a medical procedure, for example, ongoing, persistent anxiety that causes significant distress and interferes with daily functioning is not. Such significant, disruptive feelings could be a sign of an anxiety disorder. This type of diagnosable condition may impact daily life for many people, since symptoms can be persistent and may feel all-encompassing at times.

Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental health disorder affecting people today. They can affect children, teenagers, adults, and those in old age. While they can be serious, they’re generally considered manageable and/or treatable with the right support. 
Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and other types
Types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobias, and panic disorder. Symptoms may vary depending on the specific disorder, but generally may include things like:
  • Persistent, uncontrollable worry
  • Muscle tension
  • Trouble sleeping
  • A sense of dread
  • Restlessness
  • Panic attacks
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Poems about anxiety

Since anxiety can affect a person’s thought patterns and daily functioning in such a significant way, it’s not surprising that poetry has been written about it throughout history. From the waste land described by TS Eliot to the words of wise men and women like Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson to the raw experiences of modern writers of all genders, many have covered the topics of anxiety, fear, and other aspects of mental health. Consider some of the following poems that touch on these subjects.
“My happiest hours [...] decayed to dark anxiety”
In one stanza of "The Teacher's Monologue", Charlotte Brontë talks about “my happiest hours” that have “decayed to dark anxiety.” She relates that although she enjoys reflecting on positive memories, “dark anxiety” finds a way to creep in and affect her even in these lighter moments. An individual experiencing anxiety may relate to her description of that feeling of worry persistently encroaching on one’s mind, making it hard to have a lighthearted day or a good night.
The diaphragm, a fist clenching at the bottom
This line comes from a poem by Jamaal May called “Respiration.” It describes with vivid imagery some common physical manifestations of fear and anxiety: a tightness in the chest that can feel like broken glass or “a fist clenching,” and forced or rapid breathing. These can be part of the stress response, and finding ways to manage them may help you feel calmer in the moment. Research suggests that certain types of deep breathing exercises could help with anxiety symptoms, so exploring these may be worthwhile for those who experience this type of symptom.
“When anxiety zigzags your stomach”
"Poem for People that Are Understandably Too Busy to Read Poetry" by Stephen Dunn was written to be read “when anxiety zigzags your stomach.” In it, Dunn reminds the reader that every feeling is temporary, including the tension of anxiety. 

He also writes that when “you need someone to tell you / I’ll be here when you want me / like the sound inside a shell.” These words can be interpreted as speaking to the powerful connection between social support and mental health. Consider, for example, research that suggests that having strong social connections may improve overall mental and physical health and boost resilience to difficult emotions.
Where forgetting me is what you do / so you don’t have to look at yourself
“The Poem You’ve Been Waiting For” by Tarifa Faizullah is a reflective piece that conveys a sense of uneasiness. In it, she writes: “I have been / twisting and turning across these lifetimes / where forgetting me is what you do / so you don’t have to look at yourself.”
One interpretation of these words is that it’s possible to look at anxiety as a messenger or a tool, drawing your attention to parts of you that may need attention or care. Approaching your anxiety with a sense of self-compassion instead of judgment could help you say good bye to the intensity of these feelings and help you find some calm again.
The day’s too beautiful to speak a word
Some people find that grounding exercises can help them manage anxiety symptoms in the moment. Getting in tune with the nature around you is one way to do this—a technique that poet Rose Styron captures in her short poem, "Untitled [No One's Awake].” It evokes the feeling of a brand-new day when birds are chirping, which can be interpreted as a reminder to ground oneself in the present moment when anxiety feels like it’s taking over.
ut trust the hours. Haven’t they / carried you everywhere, up to now?
While anxiety can feel overwhelming at times, it can be helpful to remember that help is available and symptom mitigation is possible. Take, for instance, the poem "Wait," where Galway Kinnell speaks to the hopelessness that anxiety can bring but offers reasons to be hopeful even in the face of it. He writes, “But trust the hours. Haven’t they / carried you everywhere, up to now?” and invites the reader to believe that they’ll feel more engaged in life again soon.

Experiencing symptoms of anxiety?
Let us wander through certain half-deserted streets
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

The poem continues on, describing with passionate intensity “certain half-deserted streets” and the cold and windy “chambers of the sea,” perhaps reflecting the isolation and loneliness a person may feel when anxious or otherwise feeling alone in their emotions. 

Remembering that others have similar challenges and that support is available may help those living with anxiety. Some people with this type of mental health challenge find comfort and inspiration through support groups, which some research suggests may help decrease anxiety and improve quality of life
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Some well-known lines from “The Second Coming” by WB Yeats include:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned

This poem, published in 1920, can be interpreted as a lament about the state of the world. Many people today can relate to the feelings Yeats describes here—including people with anxiety. It’s not uncommon to feel an uptick in anxious feelings after reading the news about what’s happening in our own communities and those beyond. The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that increasing numbers of individuals—particularly teens and young adults—are experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety after reading the news. That’s why the APA suggests setting boundaries for news consumption if you find that it’s exacerbating feelings of anxiety.
Seeking treatment for anxiety
If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety that are interfering with your life, know that resources are available. In general, anxiety disorders are considered manageable—typically through psychotherapy, sometimes in combination with medication. A cognitive behavioral therapist in particular can help you learn to recognize distorted thoughts that may be contributing to your symptoms so you can shift them in a more balanced, healthier direction. They can also assist you in developing healthy coping mechanisms for managing distressing emotions and symptoms.

Some people with anxiety find the prospect of meeting with a therapist in person to be intimidating. In cases like these, online therapy can represent a more comfortable alternative. With a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed provider who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the challenges you may be facing. Since research suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy conducted face to face and via the internet can be “equally effective,” you can typically choose the format that works best for you. See below for client reviews of BetterHelp counselors.
Counselor reviews
"Dr. Munyan was so helpful! I am dealing with a lot of anxiety and he provided so many amazing ways for me to handle it better. Definitely would recommend him."

"Natasha has been a truly amazing counselor! I now feel that I have the confidence to face challenges as they come. Natasha helped me to reflect on why I might be feeling a certain way while providing me with some tools to cope with my anxiety as needed. She was incredibly understanding and helped me to set realistic goals with myself and others. Not only can I tell that our counseling sessions helped, but also others have commented on the positive changes I have made. She's awesome!"


Sometimes, engaging with the arts—such as reading poems—can make those experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition feel seen and supported. If you're experiencing signs of an anxiety disorder, the recommended next step is typically to meet with a mental health professional who can help you address them.
Regulate anxiety in a compassionate environment
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