Anxiety refers to thought and behavioral issues that result from excessive fear and anxiety. Fear is best described as an emotional response to a real or perceived threat, whereas anxiety focuses on the anticipation of a future threat. Anxiety may often be described by words such as stress, worry or nervousness.

Every day we live under some level of pressure where anxiety can sometimes help us to prepare for difficult or stressful times. We can often regulate the feeling of anxiety through relaxation techniques, hobbies, exercise, entertainment or talking with someone.

In a best-case scenario, the feelings of anxiety are short-lived and we return to our normal day to day routines without any major disruption. However, in some cases, these levels of anxiety are more intense and prolonged and as a result, the effect on our lives becomes more disruptive and abnormal.

Anxiety is classified as a disorder once the symptoms of anxiety become chronic and disrupt our ability to function in our daily lives.

Anxiety is not always easily defined in terms of behavioral experiences. One person may initiate coping mechanisms that are internalised through poor concentration, poor memory, and avoidance behaviours. Alternatively, another person may exhibit anxiety externally through physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, sweaty hands, and physical weakness.

Anxiety is a general term, however, the DSM-5 details anxiety in various subtypes:



  • Agoraphobia
  • Anxiety Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Other Specified Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Selective Mutism
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
  • Specific Phobia


Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder Art therapy helps facilitate cognitive disruption by moving attention away from rumination. This redirection of attention away from worrying then helps to regulate the nervous system.

Art therapy allows us to express ourselves visually and rely less on verbal expression. Verbal expression can be a difficult task if a client is catastrophising. The feelings of being overwhelmed can make verbal expression difficult which then negatively impacts the client’s perception of self-managing feelings and thoughts.

Art Therapy can benefit clients by initially diffusing a stressful environment in the therapy setting. Techniques will help the client feel calm and able to focus on the task at hand. Once this anxiety is defused, the client is then more open to process thoughts, emotions and assess behaviour.

Art therapy can also assist anxiety by improving self esteem, resolving problems, expressing feelings, problem solving and goal setting which aids in working towards improved thinking patterns.


Below is a summary of some of the benefits of art therapy for helping with anxiety:

  • Calms the nervous system
  • Acts as a distraction
  • Interrupts rumination
  • Encourages focus on one thing
  • Increases self-esteem from the act of creating something
  • Reduces over-stimulation from external sources
  • Provides tactile stimulation
  • Venting, releasing stress
  • Useful when verbal expression is limited
  • Encourages “play”
  • Art activities can be undertaken outside of therapy when situations arise



Article provided by Corinne Allen, Kapiti Art Therapy.

Find outmore about Kapiti Art therapy here -