Self-help is a saturated genre, and finding the right book to help with anxiety is difficult, especially because each person’s anxiety is a little different. This list breaks down self-help recommendations according to where your anxiety stems from, helping to address the root issues instead of just the symptoms.
Anxiety often stems from issues like stress, shame, trauma, or something in your life that is missing, not working, or in conflict with something important to you. All of the books on this list have been selected because, instead of just focusing on how to reduce your anxiety symptoms, they focus on strengthening certain qualities and skills that make you more resilient to anxiety.
Books For Stress-Related Anxiety
The following books are geared towards those who can trace their anxiety back to specific stressors in their life, and will provide readers with practical strategies to manage crisis, reduce stress, and respond wisely.
1. The Upside of Stress
For many people, stress and anxiety co-occur, each feeding off of the other. Celebrated psychologist Dr. Kelly McGonigal challenges the long-standing paradigm that stress (particularly chronic stress) is toxic. Drawing from a growing body of research, she argues that stress can even be positive, motivating, and helpful. Her goal is to get readers to change the way they think and feel about stress so that they can respond differently to it when they encounter it, even learning to use it to their advantage. Changing the way people think and feel about stress is a critical part of the process, since McGonigal’s theory is that the pervasive belief that stress is bad and harmful is the true cause of its negative effects on physical and mental health.
2. Manage Your Day-to-Day
While Jocelyn K. Glei’s Manage Your Day-To-Day is often cited as a business book for those in creative fields, it’s application to other sources of stress and anxiety is undeniable. The book is a compilation of key life lessons on how to stay focused on your top priorities even when there is a barrage of other stressors, interruptions, and distractions. The book encourages building intentional routines that place your priorities at the center, as opposed to getting swept up in the priorities of others. By design, the habits and routines within this book put you back in the driver’s seat with turn-by-turn directions on how to get where you intend to go. Equal parts practical and philosophical, readers will learn how to meet stress on their terms.
3. 10% Happier
Dan Harris is a respected news anchor, and 10% Happier details his personal experience with debilitating stress and anxiety, culminating in a highly public panic attack. This experience began an exhaustive search for something to help him lower stress and anxiety. He found what he was searching for in meditation, the ancient practice of training the mind to detach from unhelpful thoughts and stories, and to be fully present in each moment. Harris peppers his memoir with recent research and neuroscience which all support his claims that meditation can help you reduce stress and lower anxiety, maybe even making you 10% happier in the process.
Books For Anxiety Related to Abuse, Neglect, Loss, & Other Trauma
People who have experienced traumatic events like being abused, neglected, betrayed or losing a loved one often relive these tragedies when they are reminded of what happened. When this happens, their fight or flight (fear) response is activated, causing intense symptoms of anxiety. When anxiety stems from trauma, working through the trauma is almost always a necessary step. While this should be done with a trained trauma therapist, the following books can be a helpful supplement to the healing process.
4. Whole Again
Whole Again is a sequel (of sorts) to a previous book written by Jackson MacKenzie entitled Psychopath Free, which was written for those in relationships with psychopathic people. Whole Again is a guide to healing for readers who have been in any kind of toxic or abusive relationship. This book can help you better understand how different kinds of abuse can lead to different types of defenses, or what McKenzie refers to as the “protective self.” While necessary in these moments, this protective self often sticks around even after the abuse, and can begin getting in the way, even sabotaging healthy relationships. Whole Again provides a more authentic path to healing and reconnecting with the “authentic self” beneath the old protections.
5. Childhood Disrupted
Childhood Disrupted, by Donna Jackson Nakazawa, provides essential information about the long-term effects of trauma. Readers are invited to learn more about specific types of childhood trauma and family dysfunction and their effects. This helps readers unlock insight into their current patterns and where they originated, providing a more individualized explanation than other books on trauma. The entire second half of the book is dedicated to beginning a personalized journey towards healing and recovery that includes assessments, exercises, and skills. There is also a chapter dedicated to adult survivors of abuse who are now parents themselves, providing education on how to break the generational cycle and become loving, effective parents.
6. Finding Meaning
Finding Meaning is a highly personal book, detailing the grief David Kessler experienced after the death of his son a few years ago. It touches the emotional wounds familiar to anyone who has lost someone (or something) they love. The book is somewhat of a sequel to a book co-authored by Kessler in the 70’s, which first came up with the now-renowned 5 stages of grief model. Kessler revisits his model, adding a 6th stage where a person moves beyond acceptance, finding meaning out of the tragedy and love within the pain. This is an essential read for those who are grieving, but also has broader applications to trauma of all varieties. Instead of just coming to terms with the loss, Finding Meaning encourages readers to build things that matter in the empty spaces left behind.
Books For Performance Anxiety, Self-Doubt, & Fear of Failure
Many people’s anxiety stems from deep insecurities, self-doubts, or a general lack of confidence in their skills and abilities. This form of anxiety often presents itself in the arenas of school and work, or any area of life where a person is setting goals and planning for their future. If this is you, the books below all offer a crash course in developing courage and confidence needed to push through the nerves and stay on the charted course.
7. Big Magic
A book on harnessing creativity by the author of Eat, Pray, Love might seem like an unlikely candidate for a self-help book on anxiety, but the magic of this book extends far beyond the creative realm. At its core, this is a book about fear and courage, and how to get them to play nicely together. Elizabeth Gilbert draws from the premise of her own crippling performance anxiety after becoming a bestselling author, feeling immense pressure for the next book to be just as prolific and loved. She discusses her messy process of reconnecting with her creativity and passion for writing, and how accepting and collaborating with her fear was essential to this process. Gilbert’s Big Magic coaches readers to cultivate the courage needed to make magic happen in their lives, even in the company of their fears.
Grit is just a synonym for determination, or the “stuff” required to keep chasing your dreams even when you fall down. In fact, Angela Duckworth spends a lot of time talking about falling down, arguing that what happens next is far, far more important than what happened before. Duckworth argues that a combination of passion and perseverance (what grit is made of) is what determines the winners from the losers. Essentially, grit is made of the very things needed to overcome anxiety and self-doubt, ensuring you don’t go running for the hills at the first sign of failure. Luckily, grit isn’t genetic, it can be developed, practiced, and strengthened, which is exactly what this book teaches.
9. The Confidence Gap
The Confidence Gap is a spin-off on Russ Harris’s bestselling book, The Happiness Trap. Both books outline a way of working through difficult emotions using principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Consistent with the model, Harris challenges the idea that emotions like anxiety are “problems” that need to be fixed, instead seeing your response to these emotions as the true problem. The more you struggle to avoid or control anxiety, Harris argues, the more “stuck” you become. The Confidence Gap argues that the way to become more confident is not to get rid of anxiety, but instead to develop a better working relationship with it. Harris does a good job of nailing these abstract ideas down into digestible pieces and actionable steps, as well as teaching skills that can help you bridge the confidence gap.
10. Emotionfull: A Guide to Self-Care for Your Mental Health and Emotions
This workbook is rooted in self-love and acceptance, something everyone could use a little bit more of. When you’re an anxious person, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by your feelings. You might be told to “just relax” with self-care, like a bubble bath or a face mask. But emotional self-care is often the true solution, though it can be harder to pin down. Author Lauren Woods offers kind and gentle practices rooted in emotional self-care to help anxious thinkers value their needs and listen to their emotions in a way that truly takes care of themselves.
Books for Anxiety Related to Insecurities, Shame, & Fear of Rejection
Shame is experienced by most people on occasion, but people who experience it frequently are more likely to have it manifest as anxiety. Anxiety resulting from a root issue with shame is usually related to fears of being rejected, judged or failing as a result of not being good enough in some area of your life. If this feels true for you, the following books can begin the process of healing shame from the inside out, as opposed to seeking a quick fix in the form of external validation.
11. Self Compassion
Psychologist Kristen Neff has dedicated her career to helping people develop self-compassion to overcome issues like depression and anxiety. Her research has found that self-compassion is essential to both physical and mental health, and that self-compassionate people are happier, healthier, and more successful. Neff offers clear examples, strategies, and her own experiences on how to reverse the cumulative damage of self-criticism. Self-compassion works by teaching you to comfort and care for yourself better, which helps you become stronger, braver, and less affected by shame, doubt, and fear. Self-criticism is the food that nourishes shame and deep insecurities, but self-compassion feeds a different part of you—the part that is sure, kind, and calm.
12. I Thought It was Just Me
Brene Brown is a social worker, researcher, best selling author, and star of one of the most viral TED talks of all time. What has earned her all of this notoriety? Her research on shame and vulnerability, two uncomfortable topics most people try to avoid. I Thought it Was Just Me is written for the imperfect versions of you that you are constantly editing, polishing and disguising because you are afraid of failure, rejection, and not being enough. Brown’s call to action is to abandon your inner PR rep and be your messy and imperfect self more often. She reminds you that trying to be perfect limits you, feeds your shame, and intimidates others, pushing them away. Dropping out of the perfect pageant also relieves a lot of pressure, stress, and anxiety.
13. Girl, Wash Your Face
Many psychologists understand that the stories people tell about themselves matter greatly, informing what they do and who they become. Rachel Hollis calls bull on some of the most common of these stories, specifically the ones told by the inner critic. These include things like “I need to lose weight,” “I’m a bad mom,” or “I should be further along.” With humor, kindness, and a lot of unbridled truth, she calls women out for letting these lies hold them back, keeping them from being their best selves. Girl, Wash Your Face is essential reading for women, but particularly for moms who struggle with the constant shame of falling short at life, work, love, parenting or all of the above. A quote in the book sums her message up perfectly: “You are more than you have become, but finding more means letting go of the ‘less than’ stories.”
14. Reframe Your Viewpoints: How to Redirect Anxiety Energy to Unlock Confidence
Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) relies on reframing emotional thoughts and feelings into quantifiable ideas. It’s how life coach and mental health practitioner Virginia Ritterbusch reframed her anxious thinking about battling it for years. Now, she uses her experience to help anxious readers establish daily routines, channel uncertainty, and reframe their anxious thoughts to live beyond their anxiety.
This book includes how to reframe the way you talk about yourself, creating self-awareness through mindfulness, and easy. habit-building strategies to help you break free of the anxiety cycle.
15. Negative Self-Talk and How to Change It
Like anything else, self-talk is a habit and one that can be hard to break. Negative self-talk is no exception. The more we say unkind (or even untrue) things about ourselves, the harder it is to separate truth from fiction.
If you struggle with negative self-talk and want to break free, Dr. Helmstetter offers advice and practical solutions.
Helpful Books For Anxiety of Any Kind
While anxiety can stem from different causes and show up in different areas of life, there are certain features common to all anxiety disorders. Specifically, there are patterns in the way a person thinks, feels and behaves when they are anxious that unintentionally reinforces the anxiety, making it worse. Each of the books below helps to uncover these patterns, encouraging changes that create an environment less conducive for anxiety to grow and spread.
16. Deconstructing Anxiety
Deconstructing Anxiety reveals what Dr. Todd Pressman calls the “architecture” of anxiety, or the psychological, cognitive, and behavioral structures that keep it in place. He explains how certain core fears, and the defenses you developed to protect yourself from them, have created invisible limitations that are constantly holding you back. By identifying these fears and defenses, you can develop the awareness needed to interrupt this automatic process, and begin acting in ways that move you closer to a version of your future that you consciously choose, as opposed to one limited by your fears. Deconstructing Anxiety is dense reading when compared to other self-help books, but packs in a lot of essential information needed to understand and outsmart anxiety.
Dare, by Barry McDonagh, distills many of the key features of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a proven treatment that can help with anxiety in addition to a range of other mental health issues. Dare challenges readers to respond to their fears in ways that seem counterintuitive – to accept anxiety rather than trying to get rid of it, to downplay worries instead of fueling them, and to approach fears rather than avoid them. The end result is a fairly comprehensive plan that, when executed, is bound to deliver different results. Dare also encourages people to use these skills to get back to their lives, not the old, safe version of life, but the fuller, freer version that becomes possible when fear is no longer in the driver’s seat.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware, present, and engaged in our moment-to-moment experiences. People can get stuck in their heads, preventing them from truly experiencing and living their lives. Mindfulness is a proven practice that, when integrated into your routine, pays many lasting dividends to your physical and mental wellbeing. Mindfulness, by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, provides an eight week plan to begin establishing a mindfulness practice that is practical, accessible, and realistic. It avoids the common trappings of dipping too deeply into spiritual or philosophical realms, instead providing readers with an inner path to peace that doesn’t require you to leave the material world behind.
19. Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind
If you’re combating anxiety with procrastinating, doom scrolling, drinking, or other addictive habits in light of very anxiety-inducing recent events, you’re not alone. Dr. Brewer outlines new science and mindful ways to beat anxiety loops for the better by reminding readers that our brains can’t logic their way out of anxiety. it’s far better, he argues, to understand how our triggers work and learn how to defuse an anxiety bomb before it blows.
20. Untangle Your Anxiety: A Guide To Overcoming An Anxiety Disorder By Two People Who Have Been Through It
Joshua Fletcher, psychotherapist, and Dean Stott, owner of the famous anxiety Instagram account, @DLCanxiety, team up in this anxiety workbook for those who struggle with keeping their anxious thoughts under control.
And they would know: they’ve both been diagnosed with anxiety orders in the past. This book outlines how they got through it, and how those with anxiety can apply their lessons.
21. Don’t F*cking Panic: The Sh*t They Don’t Tell You in Therapy About Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attacks, & Depression
Comedian and mental health advocate Kesley Darragh has been there: she knows what it’s like to struggle with mental health and manage anxious thoughts. Part guidebook, part personal story, this book is perfect for those who just wish they could hear from someone who’s dealt with anxiety and can offer real advice.
Developing resilience to anxiety is key because, despite what many books (even some on this list) claim, you will not be able to completely get rid of your anxiety. Anxiety is an inherent part of the human condition, and part of the cost of admission to a life that includes your goals, dreams, and all of the people, things, and experiences that matter most to you. While there isn’t a way to get rid of fear altogether, there are ways of becoming braver, stronger, and less impacted by it.
For Further Reading
- Learn from the best in these books about stress management
- Top Books About Mindfulness
- Books on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Support Groups at NAMI
- In-depth review of the best online therapy options
- Best mantras for calming anxiety