52 Quotes on Anxiety
THC Editorial Team June 26, 2021
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion that refers to concerns, worry, and/or fear about a situation. In clinical terms, anxiety refers to instances when a person experiences excessive fear or apprehension about a situation.1 According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition; DSM-5), “Fear is the emotional response to a real or perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is the anticipation of future threat.”2
Anxiety, within normal bounds, can be a “gift of wisdom.”3 It acts as a tool, or indicator, to communicate our internal perceptions about the external world. It can prompt us to reflect on or prepare for stressful but important occasions, such as an exam, a first date, or a competition. However, excessive anxiety can profoundly affect our minds and bodies in negative ways. Modern life—and its associated challenges—is conducive to abnormal levels of anxiety. Our Western concepts of time management and our notion of productivity, the divisive rhetoric in the news media, and our fast-paced, high-stress work environments contribute to heightened baseline anxiety.
Experiencing prolonged levels of abnormal anxiety may be characterized as having an anxiety disorder. In 2017, an estimated 284 million people experienced an anxiety disorder globally.4 The World Health Organization estimates that anxiety disorders make up 4% of existing disabilities worldwide.5
Select Quotes on Anxiety
The following are some of our favorite quotes on anxiety. They have been curated from some of our favorite books, articles, and teachers.
Depression and anxiety are downward spirals: patterns of negative, unhealthy activity and reactivity that the brain ends up stuck in.…Recent research has uncovered the power of the upward spiral: the fact that small positive life changes lead to positive brain changes in its electrical activity, its chemical composition, and even its ability to grow new neurons.…Upward spirals can reverse the downward patterns of depression and anxiety.6The Upward Spiral
By making small changes in your thoughts, actions, interactions, and environment, it’s possible to change the activity and chemistry of the key brain circuits underlying depression and anxiety.6The Upward Spiral
The brain is malleable and can be reshaped, and thus so can the neural circuits that contribute to depression and anxiety.6The Upward Spiral
The following quotes by Marc Brackett and Max Lucado allude to the uncertainty and lack of perceived control of anxiety.
Anxiety…is worry about future uncertainty and our inability to control what will happen to us.7Permission to Feel
Anxiety is a meteor shower of what-ifs.8Anxious for Nothing
The next quotes are from leading existentialist and 20th-century psychologist Rollo May, who covers some philosophical aspects of anxiety.
Anxiety has a purpose. Originally this purpose was to protect the existence of the caveman from wild beasts and savage neighbors. Nowadays the occasions for anxiety are very different—we are afraid of losing out in the competition, feeling unwanted, isolated, and ostracized.9The Meaning of Anxiety
Normal anxiety is an expression of the capacity of the organism to react to threats; this capacity is innate and has its inherited neurophysiological system.9The Meaning of Anxiety
Anxiety cannot be avoided, but it can be reduced.9The Meaning of Anxiety
Anxiety can be treated constructively by accepting it as a challenge and a stimulus to clarify and, as far as possible, resolve the underlying problem.9The Meaning of Anxiety
The constructive use of normal anxiety…is characterized by the individual’s…admitting apprehensions but moving ahead despite the anxiety. In other words…moving through anxiety-creating experiences rather than moving around them or retrenching before them.9The Meaning of Anxiety
The positive aspects of selfhood develop as the individual confronts, moves through, and overcomes anxiety-creating experiences.9The Meaning of Anxiety
Anxiety is the reaction when a person faces some kind of destruction of his existence or that which he identifies with it.9The Meaning of Anxiety
This normal anxiety of life cannot be avoided except at the price of apathy or the numbing of one’s sensibilities and imagination.9The Meaning of Anxiety
The problem of the management of anxiety is that of reducing the anxiety to normal levels, and then to use this normal anxiety as stimulation to increase one’s awareness, vigilance, zest for living.9The Meaning of Anxiety
The constructive way of dealing with anxiety…consists of learning to live with it, accepting it as a “teacher,” to borrow Kierkegaard’s phrase, to school us in confronting our human destiny.The Meaning of Anxiety
Conscious anxiety is more painful but it is available also to use in the service of integration of the self.9The Meaning of Anxiety
In…anxiety, what is felt to be wrong may be simply some aspect of human destiny which every person must accept as part of the human condition.9The Meaning of Anxiety
The next set of quotes addresses the holistic, mindful, and transformational aspects of the self and anxiety.
The dramatic increase in the number of people suffering from fear, anxiety, and depression in the last decades is a direct reflection of how many of us struggle with the painful lack of inner peace and self-acceptance.10The Self-Acceptance Project
The current level of pain, anxiety, and depression in our society offers a huge opportunity for growth on a larger scale, and it is encouraging to see that more and more people recognize that the path to harmony, peace, and fulfillment leads them within.10The Self-Acceptance Project
Spiritual health and well-being are as important as physical and emotional health, and very often conflicts in the soul play out in a person’s religious and spiritual practice. Spiritual emotions can be deeply disturbing: anxiety about meaning, guilt, fear of death, concern about afterlife, existential loneliness, and uncertainty.11Care of the Soul
Perhaps the biggest tragedy in our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns. Entangled in the trance of unworthiness, we grow accustomed to caging ourselves in with self-judgment and anxiety, with restlessness and dissatisfaction.12Radical Acceptance
Understanding anxiety’s positive function throughout history can facilitate the essential shift in mindset from wanting to get rid of it to becoming curious about it.3The Wisdom of Anxiety
When we learn how to harness the wisdom of anxiety, the richness and messages contained in the unconscious can inform and expand our conscious lives.3The Wisdom of Anxiety
Anxiety can inform your life, but it does not have to define it. You’re not destined for anxiety; you’re destined for equanimity.3The Wisdom of Anxiety
This is the wisdom of anxiety: the call to turn inward so that you can fill your well and turn back outward to give to a world that needs you.3The Wisdom of Anxiety
Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry all forms of fear are caused by too much future, and not enough presence.13The Power of Now
The simple and honest process of letting people know that discomfort is normal, it’s going to happen, why it happens, and why it’s important, reduces anxiety, fear, and shame. Periods of discomfort become an expectation and a norm.14Daring Greatly
Anxiety is extremely contagious, but so is calm.15As cited in The Gifts of Imperfection
The placing of your attention on the dissipation of the anxiety by witnessing it, and nothing more, allows it to go away.16The Power of Awakening
Your sense of inner peace depends on spending some of your life energy in silence to recharge your battery, remove tension and anxiety, reacquaint you with the joy of knowing God, and feel closer to all of humanity.17You Are What You Think
Being in the now is the way to remove anxiety, stress, and even some illnesses.1821 Days to Master Success and Inner Peace
Chasing and striving—and then becoming attached to what we chased after—is a source of anxiety that invigorates Ambition, but it won’t satisfy the need for Meaning at our soul level.19The Shift
We attract difficult situations because there is something of value for us to learn; they give us the opportunity to be of service to others. Such situations create anxiety because they mirror unresolved issues we carry inside of us.…Experiences come into our lives to serve as a reflection of who we are; they allow us to integrate the challenges that remain unresolved.20Beyond Past Lives
Practicing mindfulness can bring about a whole new dimension of being. We can transform our anger and anxiety, and cultivate our energy of peace, understanding, and compassion as the basis for action.21The Art of Living
When we’re anxious, worried, or angry, we can’t make good decisions. When we’re free, we make better decisions. This freedom is something we can attain whenever we like with the practice of breathing in mindfulness, walking in mindfulness.22How to Relax
We can notice whether we are anxious about accidents or misfortunes, and how much anger, irritation, fear, anxiety, or worry are still in us. As we become aware of the feelings in us, our self-understanding will deepen.23How to Love
Sometimes we eat, but we aren’t thinking of our food. We’re thinking of the past or the future or mulling over some worry or anxiety again and again. Don’t chew your worries, your fear, or your anger. If you chew your planning and your anxiety, it’s difficult to feel grateful for each piece of food. Just chew your food.24How to Eat
Anxiety is the handmaiden of contemporary ambition, for our livelihoods and esteem rest on…unpredictable elements.25Status Anxiety
Life seems to be a process of replacing one anxiety with another and substituting one desire for another—which is not to say that we should never strive to overcome any of our anxieties or fulfil any of our desires, but rather to suggest that we should perhaps build into our strivings an awareness of the way our goals promise us a respite and a resolution that they cannot, by definition, deliver.25Status Anxiety
Anxiety is our fundamental state for well-founded reasons: because we are intensely vulnerable physical beings…we have insufficient information upon which to make most major life decisions…because the trajectories of our careers and of our finances are plotted within the tough-minded, competitive, destructive, random workings of an uncontained economic engine; because we rely for our self-esteem and sense of comfort on the love of people we cannot control and whose needs and hopes will never align seamlessly with our own.26The School of Life
Anxiety is not a sign of sickness, a weakness of the mind or an error for which we should always seek a medical solution. It is mostly a hugely reasonable and sensitive response to the genuine strangeness, terror, uncertainty and riskiness of existence.26The School of Life
Anxiety is simply insight that we haven’t yet found a productive use for, that hasn’t yet made its way into art or philosophy.26The School of Life
There is no need…to be anxious that we are anxious. The mood is no sign that our lives have gone wrong, merely that we are alive.26The School of Life
No matter what problems we struggle with—anxiety, depression, negative rumination, self-doubt, chronic pain—they do not have to keep us from acting in a way that brings our lives meaning and purpose.27A Liberated Mind
… although anxiety is a part of life, never let it control you.Manuscript Found in Accra
There is nothing wrong with anxiety. Although we cannot control God’s time, it is part of the human condition to want to receive the thing we are waiting for as quickly as possible.28Manuscript Found in Accra
Anxiety was born in the very same moment of mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it — just as we have we have learned to live with storms.28Manuscript Found in Accra
Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It creates the failures. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.29The Diary of Anais Nin vol. 4
Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.
Do not let your difficulties fill you with anxiety, after all it is only in the darkest nights that stars shine more brightly.
Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.
Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.
Hopefully, these insights from throughout history can be helpful for us in navigating our own experiences and relationship with anxiety.