Anxiety disorder and the role of music in stress relief

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Music has the power to calm your ‘nerves’ and make your body feel good. Music affects your brain. It is a useful tool for anxiety disorder and providing relief from various forms of depression. In several ways, science has shown that listening to music can activate certain areas of the brain; thus, improving the way people behave, think, and feel. 

“One good thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain.” – Bob Marley.

This means that music can offer a therapeutic solution to anxiety disorder conditions, which poses a threat to mental health.

What is anxiety disorder?

Anxiety is not abnormal; it’s the body’s natural way of responding to stress. Anxiety is the nervous feeling you get when you walk into the exam wall; when you attend your first interview, when you walk up the podium to address a large audience for the first time. 

However, anxiety becomes abnormal (or turns to a disorder) when you experience extreme anxiety feeling for an extended period (longer than six months), which also interferes with your everyday life.

The familiar feeling of anxiety might be unpleasant; however, on some occasions, it might spur you to take actions, to work harder, and to sort out life issues. This sort of anxiety is ordinary; it comes and goes. It hardly interferes with your life or activities.

On the other hand, anxiety disorder is a common emotional disorder that can affect people at any age and induce intense, debilitating fear. This extreme feeling of constant anxiety and fear can stop you from doing the things you usually do, such as going to school, work, social events, etc.

The good thing is that anxiety disorder is not life-threatening, and with the right treatment or therapy, people with this disorder can better manage their conditions.

“Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans” – John Lennon.

Symptoms of anxiety disorder

The primary symptom of anxiety disorder is the constant feeling of extreme fear and excessive worry over a long period.

However, anxiety disorder also presents with certain symptoms, making it hard for you to think, focus, stay still, sleep, and even breathe.

Some of the common symptoms of anxiety disorder are:

  • Extreme feeling of fear and panic
  • Sleep problems
  • Feelings of doom or danger
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold, sweaty hands or feet
  • Nausea
  • Tingling of hands and feet and inability to stay calm
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle tension
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Palpitation of the heart

What causes anxiety disorder?

At this point, you might be wondering what causes anxiety disorder. What could be the reason for this intense, long term feeling of fear, worry, and anxiety?

Researchers are not sure what exactly causes anxiety; however, different factors have been found associated with the disorder’s development.

  • Environmental stress: This is one of the most common factors linked with anxiety disorder. Stressful life conditions or traumatic experiences such as rape, abuse, and neglect during childhood and a loved one’s death can trigger anxiety disorder.
  • Hereditary: Some studies have shown that anxiety disorder can be linked to genetics. This means it likely runs in families. 
  • The brain chemistry: Some research has also suggested that anxiety disorder can result from issues with brain circuits or damage to certain parts of the brain that control emotions like fear. 
  • Medical conditions: Some conditions that affect organs like the lung, heart, and thyroid can worsen anxiety symptoms or present with symptoms similar to anxiety disorder.

Music therapy as a form of treatment for anxiety disorder

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older”. 

Anxiety has been linked to depression. While they (anxiety and depression) are not the same, an article on Psychology Today says, “They are two faces of one disorder,” which means they are similar.

Here is the good news, music therapy has been useful in treating and managing both conditions. Music therapy uses music in both instrumental and vocal forms to treat people who have mental health issues.

Because music is familiar, standard, and has emotions attached to it, music therapy behaves as a neurological stimulator, which evokes reactions that can produce calming effects on the brain and body.

Do you suffer from an anxiety disorder, depression, or other mental issues? Do you have a loved one that does? Music can heal!

‘Healing’ might not necessarily mean a cure, but it surely helps; it is a step towards relieving symptoms and making one feel much better. Here are ways that music enables you to attain mental healing:

  • Music decreases anxiety
  • It reduces muscle tension
  • It improves interpersonal relationships
  • It increases self-esteem
  • It can motivate you
  • It allows you to release your emotions in a healthy way
  • It slows down your breathing
  • Music helps you to in deep, peaceful sleep

Indeed, music has shown to reduce and relax anxiety, modifies the release of stress hormones, and might also improve cardiac function.

How to create a therapeutic, stress-reducing playlist

If you always feel stressed or anxious, you can create a therapeutic playlist to help you overcome such moments. 

Here are tips to creating your personalized playlist:

  • Use familiar songs- Create your music collection using songs you have felt connected with in the past. Sometimes, we record some music as ‘sad,’ ‘happy,’ ‘motivating’ etc. Having a collection of those songs that motivates you and makes you feel good about yourself can help.
  • Go for the music you enjoy: Don’t force songs on yourself because those are the trending songs or your friend’s favorite songs. Opt for your music of choice to match your various moods.
  • Use music that matches your mood: While going through your music collection, think of your mood before selecting one. Are you in the mood to go with a high tempo? Do you feel sleepy or sluggish? Play the music that matches your mood.
  • Find music that speaks to you- Yes, music does speak; it speaks to the soul. Most times, we strive to be understood; music sometimes helps with that as it tends to validate our feelings while at the same time offering comfort. Perhaps, that is why we love listening to music we can relate with. 
  • Find a Music App for Stress Relief – There are quite a few free music apps for stress relief where you can find a selection of healing sounds and even mix nature sounds believed to calm down our nerves. Natural sounds like rains, river, sea waves, wind, fire help in relaxing. You can try a mix of any of these sounds and see what’s best for you.

You might want to order your list in such a way that it helps you attain the mood you desire.


“You should always take the best from the past, leave the worst back there and go forward with the future.” – Bob Dylan.

Anxiety is an intense feeling of fear and excessive worry. It can cause undue stress. It can disrupt one’s regular life activity, but it can be managed using different natural treatment methods. 

One of the effective therapy for anxiety and stress is music. Music speaks to the soul. It can provide comfort in trouble times and further promote relaxation. 

Do you trust your music intuition? For an optimum therapeutic effect, you should trust your music intuition and use it for the good of your mental health.

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