We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

We polled experts on their favorite books for managing anxiety, from the classics to more unorthodox approaches. Here’s what they said.

Woman reading a book while lying on a couch smilingShare on Pinterest
Igor Alecsander/Getty Images

When it comes to anxiety, the more tools in your toolkit, the better. There can be enormous comfort in knowing that a single book contains decades of research and wisdom, delivered in a practical, easy-to-access format.

Whether you flip to a random page or go chapter by chapter, books can be an excellent way to learn more about anxiety, develop life-changing coping skills, and help you navigate those tough moments — no matter where you are.

Anxiety is the most common mental health concern in America. It affects at least 18% of U.S. adults, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA).

Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • feelings of fear or dread
  • difficulty focusing
  • digestive distress
  • increased heart rate
  • quickened breathing
  • racing thoughts
  • shortness of breath

There’s a difference between feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder, although some symptoms can overlap. Some common anxiety disorders include:

The book options on anxiety appear to be endless. With so many titles floating around the self-help space, we tailored our list based on a few key factors:

  • price
  • user reviews
  • author qualifications
  • science-backed strategies
  • therapist recommendations

Best overall

Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind

  • Price: $$
  • Format: hardcover, Kindle, audiobook

If it’s written by a neuroscientist, you know it ought to be good.

With mindfulness at the core of the message, this book breaks down 20 years of research into a practical format, so you can truly understand why your brain does what it does.

From there, empirically based practices can help you “unwind” your anxiety and unlearn any unhelpful habits you may have picked up to cope with stress (hey, it happens to the best of us).

What we like

What to look out for

  • some research involves animal studies, which may distress some people

Best workbook

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook

  • Price: $$
  • Format: paperback, Kindle

Managing anxiety takes skills and tools, and this 30-year classic is all about both.

“This is an excellent read for the individual who wishes to learn not only about symptom relief and skills to implement in daily life, but the origins of anxiety disorders and how a holistic approach can lead to remarkable change and recovery,” says Dr. Karolina Pekala, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in New York. “It’s an ideal book for a motivated person.”

What we like

  • therapist-recommended
  • breathing and relaxation strategies
  • tips for nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness

What to look out for

  • some users feel that it reads like a textbook

Best for social anxiety

Essential Strategies for Social Anxiety: Practical Techniques to Face Your Fears, Overcome Self-Doubt, and Thrive

  • Price: $
  • Format: paperback, Kindle

If you were not socially anxious before, 2020 may have changed all that.

Even the bravest among us may find it difficult to give a presentation, ask a stranger for help, or speak up on a first date — especially now. For any of those everyday scenarios, and more, this book is a good option to help you work through your fears.

Think science-backed strategies, real-life examples, and tools to help you push through your limits and build confidence. We’re here for it.

What we like

What to look out for

  • some exposure therapy exercises may be intimidating for some

Best for panic attacks

Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks

  • Price: $
  • Format: paperback, Kindle, audiobook

There’s managing your fears… and then there’s challenging them.

Rather than learning to just “deal” with your anxiety, this book takes a different approach: empower yourself and confront your panicked thoughts head-on, so you can take your power back and feel like “you” again.

What we liked

  • author’s personal experiences
  • relatable, straightforward language
  • free app to go along with the book

What to look out for

  • may discourage some from trying medication (We recommend always talking with your doctor!)

Best-selling

Unf*ck Your Brain: Getting Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and Triggers with Science (5-Minute Therapy)

  • Price: $
  • Format: paperback, Kindle, audiobook, audio CD

This is not your typical self-help book, though you could probably already tell that from the title.

This book explores the root causes of anxiety, particularly how it’s tied PTSD. If regular mental health content makes it difficult to hold your attention, this book’s science-and-swearing combo may be the magic formula to help keep you engaged.

What we like

  • relatable examples
  • laugh-out-loud content
  • written by a licensed professional counselor

What to look out for

  • some readers may find casual language style over the top

Best for meditation

Practicing Mindfulness: 75 Essential Meditations to Reduce Stress, Improve Mental Health, and Find Peace in the Everyday

  • Price: $
  • Format: paperback, Kindle, audiobook

Research shows that meditation is effective for reducing symptoms of anxiety.

But if the idea of simply setting a timer and listening to your thoughts sounds intimidating, you’re not alone. We could all use a little guidance sometimes — and that’s where this book comes in.

The exercises in this book range from 5 to 15 minutes, the perfect amount of time to hold your attention if you’re newer to meditation or need a quick dose of calm in your busy schedule.

What we like

  • great for those on the go
  • accessible for beginners to meditation
  • can be used as a reference-style book (open up to a random page)

What to look out for

  • some users find it distracting to have to read the meditation instructions while trying to meditate

Mind Over Mood, Second Edition: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think

  • Price: $$
  • Format: paperback, hardcover, e-textbook

A favorite in the therapy community, this book has been printed 1.2 million times so far.

“I have guided patients through these activities many times,” says Dr. Lori Ryland, a licensed clinical psychologist in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

“They are easy to use and provide a framework for activities to help reduce anxiety,” she says. “There is an introductory session to each section which makes it very easy for someone to use the information in a self-help process.”

What we like

  • exercises like gratitude journaling and emotion-rating scales
  • incorporates mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy
  • addresses anxiety along with depression, anger, and low self-esteem

What to look out for

  • may not dig deep enough for certain mental health conditions

Best for hard times

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

  • Price: $
  • Format: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, audiobook

If anxiety is keeping you locked out of the present moment, this book may be your key back home to the now.

Each chapter is only six pages, so you can digest each concept a little at a time. Read it once, then read it again to glean a new pearl of wisdom in a sentence you’ve already visited. Somehow the words feel appropriate for so many, no matter the circumstance.

What we like

  • down-to-earth, realistic view
  • suitable for all belief systems
  • approachable Buddhist wisdom

What to look out for

  • some users say the printed font is too small
  • audible version may be too slow-paced for some

Best for children

What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety

  • Price: $
  • Format: paperback, library binding, Kindle

When kids don’t have the language to talk about anxiety, relatable metaphors can help.

This book talks about anxiety in an approachable way to help children accept its presence and establish parameters around it, like putting anxious thoughts into a “worry box.”

Consider introducing at least one chapter a week and using this book to open up the conversation about worry and fear. Though, to be fair, with all the engaging drawings and puzzles in this book, your child may just want to go through it at a much quicker pace.

What we like

  • easy, engaging layout
  • interactive self-help book
  • suitable for ages 6 to 12 years

What to look out for

  • “worry monster” metaphor may be distressing for some children

Best for teens

Conquer Anxiety Workbook for Teens: Find Peace from Worry, Panic, Fear, and Phobias

  • Price: $
  • Format: Paperback, spiral-bound, Kindle

Being a teenager is hard enough as it is, without all the extra stresses of life.

But in America, 25% of children between the ages of 13 and 18 years have an anxiety disorder, according to the ADAA.

This workbook may help. It tackles worry with a three-pronged approach:

  • education about what anxiety does to the mind
  • education about how anxiety affects your body
  • workbook exercises like goal lists, quizzes, and reflections to help channel nervous energy in a positive and useful way

What we like

  • written by a clinical psychologist
  • suitable for teens and adults alike
  • content features comments from teenagers

What to look out for

  • some families may need to do this workbook together, if a teen is having a hard time focusing on content

Best for creatives

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

  • Price: $
  • Format: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, audiobook

If anxiety is preventing you from taking a leap of faith in your creative life, this book may just be the smooth literary tonic to assuage your fears.

“Gilbert does an amazing job of helping readers understand that we will always encounter our deepest fears on the path towards our biggest dreams,” says Hailey Shafir, a licensed clinical mental health counselor in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“When we know to expect this encounter, we are more prepared for it,” she says. “Gilbert does a great job of talking about how creativity and passion can help people overcome fears they may encounter in both their personal and professional lives.”

What we like

  • short, concise chapters
  • personal and historical anecdotes
  • may be life changing for perfectionists

What to look out for

  • non-instructional (it’s more motivational in tone)

If we could, we’d include hundreds of book titles in this article. In case you didn’t find one that resonated with you, here’s how to expand your search for the right book.

Helpful techniques

Understanding anxiety on a cognitive level is helpful, but doing “the work” may help you reach your goals faster. We suggest exploring books that have an action component, like hands-on exercises, strategies, tools, and techniques to cope.

Scientific evidence

It’s best to look for content rooted in well-proven therapy techniques for anxiety, like:

Writer credentials

You may find it helpful to look for authors with a background in psychology. Some buzzwords include:

  • clinical psychologist (PsyD and PhD)
  • licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
  • licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT)
  • marriage, family, and child counselor (MFCC)
  • psychiatrist (MD or DO)

If you’re feeling anxious right now, you may feel isolated in your experience, but know that you’re not alone.

There are countless books on anxiety that can assist you on your journey (including our favorites on this list), providing important tools, tips, and resources that you can carry with you everywhere you go.

With that said, books are not and cannot be a substitute for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. You may find it helpful to reach out to a professional who can help you take that next step.