A Calm Corner of the Mind: 7 of the Best Books on Anxiety

Sorrowing old man (“At Eternity’s Gate”), Saint-Rémy, May 1890 © Vincent van Gogh

Everyone experiences anxiety now and again, but for sufferers of anxiety disorders, it can be overwhelming. Panic attacks, obsessive fear, and constant, gnawing worry can make sleeping, eating, and working a challenge. Understanding what it is like to live with an anxiety disorder can be difficult, and scientific texts and self-help books can only go so far.

Memoirs and other first-hand accounts of anxiety can pick up where these leave off, offering much-needed solace and communicating the pain and frustration of the condition in personal terms. With that in mind, the seven titles below are some of the best books on anxiety to help you better understand and better relate to its causes and effects.

  • The cover of the book How to Be Yourself

    How to Be Yourself

    In this compelling book, Dr. Ellen Hendriksen shares stories of people who have overcome their crippling social anxiety. As someone who suffers from social anxiety herself, Dr. Ellen knows how difficult it can be to tame those pesky, self-deprecating thoughts – but she also knows that it’s possible to overcome the obstacles, feel comfortable in any situation, and enjoy being your true self. Her techniques and advice will help even the most introverted to break out of their shell.

  • The cover of the book Just Checking

    Just Checking

    Relatively rare and often misunderstood, obsessive compulsive disorder is no laughing matter—except when it is. Like a lot of people with OCD, Emily Colas knew that the unshakeable worries and bizarre little rituals consuming her life were abnormal, but she was afraid to get help. She did her best to cover it all up, but eventually it became too much to bear. Her memoir, Just Checking, is a surprisingly funny and insightful look at what happened when it all started to fall apart.

  • The cover of the book The Meaning of Anxiety

    The Meaning of Anxiety

    Pioneering existential psychologist Rollo May experienced the weight of anxiety first-hand while receiving treatment for tuberculosis at a sanitorium. His time there led him to believe that anxiety is necessary for personal development, and learning to cope with it leads to healthy self-realization. According to May, anxiety can sharpen our creativity, relieve boredom and keep us from becoming dull and unimaginative. May’s ideas aren’t as well accepted as they were when he introduced them in 1950, but they remain excellent food for thought.

  • The cover of the book Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety

    Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety

    Always a nervous, sensitive kid, Daniel Smith grew into an anxious adult. Monkey Mind is the story of how he came to understand his condition and the ways that it informed his life. Hilariously self-effacing, thought-provoking, and insightful, Smith’s memoir communicates the absurdity and frustration of anxiety in an approachable, enjoyable fashion.

  • The cover of the book My Age of Anxiety

    My Age of Anxiety

    Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind

    Inspired by his own personal struggles with anxiety, Scott Stossel’s book My Age of Anxiety is a deep dive into the history of an elusive condition and the myriad efforts made at treating it. From the ancient observations of philosophers and pedants to the cutting edge medical breakthroughs behind today’s anti-depressants, My Age of Anxiety covers serious ground in exploring a universal, but poorly understood, condition.

  • The cover of the book A Brief History of Anxiety...Yours and Mine

    A Brief History of Anxiety...Yours and Mine

    Psychiatry isn’t an exact science, and sometimes what works for one person doesn’t work for another. Patricia Pearson was given a prescription for the drug Effexor after she was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. After a series of unpleasant experiences with the medication, she set out to explore the mental health industry, the history of mental illness, and how anxiety has been seen in our culture and others. With an eye set askew toward the accepted wisdom of laymen and professionals alike, Pearson’s memoir turned cultural history will provoke as many questions as it will provide answers.

  • The cover of the book On Edge

    On Edge

    A Journey Through Anxiety

    This memoir is a raw and honest account of Andrea Petersen’s experiences in living with anxiety since childhood. Andrea explores the debilitating symptoms she faced in battling this disorder, as well as how she began the journey to understanding her condition, controlling her fears, and healing her mind.