Songs About PTSD

Despite it being increasingly common in our society, we still don’t talk about PTSD as much as we could.

Whether that’s because we find it awkward, uncomfortable, or painful is a deeply personal experience. Because we don’t discuss PTSD often, many people find comfort in listening to music that reflects their experiences.

These songs about PTSD might help listeners overcome their trauma. Whatever you need, there’s something for everyone.

1. PTSD by G. Herbo

Song Year: 2020

We start our list of songs about PTSD with a piece by the rapper G. Herbo. Herbo collaborated with Juice WRLD Chance and Lil Uzi Vert on this song.

The impetus was Herbo’s diagnosis of PTSD. Talking in interviews, the rapper said he hadn’t realized how much of a toll his exposure to inter-city death and violence took on him. Then he went to therapy.

The result is an astonishing and nuanced treatment of several artists’ experiences of PTSD that lays the groundwork for conversations about mental health between listeners.

2. Zombie by The Cranberries

Song Year: 1994

The Cranberries’ song “Zombie” does grapple explicitly with PTSD. In particular, it explores PTSD inspired by military tours and operations.

Depending on a person’s experience, responses vary. Some recovering veterans find it triggers flashbacks. Others take comfort in the song’s realistic treatment of a challenging subject, comforted by the knowledge their experience isn’t as isolating as they thought.

3. Til It Happens to You by Lady Gaga

Song Year: 2010

“Til It Happens To You” was written for the film The Hunting Ground. It’s also a tribute to America’s rape victims on college and university campuses everywhere.

The slow tempo and heartbeat pulse of the orchestration is haunting. But what’s most powerful about this song is that it takes all the advice we give people with PTSD and unflinchingly condemns it as trite.

Simultaneously, it recognizes the horror of rape and violence. It’s a powerful combination, and the result is a memorable song about PTSD.

4. American Soldier by Toby Keith

Song Year: 2003

“American Soldier” is another song with a militaristic theme that many people with PTSD find reassuring.

It contrasts themes of family, love, and loyalty with the perpetual pressure of the military lifestyle. Keith’s speaker is devoted to his job but also his family and it’s obvious that the perpetual balancing act demands a lot.

It’s also not a balance everyone achieves, and sometimes that’s enough to cause PTSD. The recognition that these stresses aren’t imagined is something many listeners find reassuring.

5. Safe and Sound by Taylor Swift

Song Year: 2012

While not explicitly a song about PTSD, many people who struggle with mental health find Taylor Swift’s lyrics resonate.

The lyrics are unapologetically dark, in a way that both warrant a trigger warning, but many also find cathartic. They grapple with how shadows threaten to overwhelm our internal spark of light and how alluring that feeling can be.

But even as it flirts with feelings of despair, it offers listeners a beacon of hope. The title says it all; This song is about eventually finding a place where you feel safe and secure again.

6. Survivor by Destiny’s Child

Song Year: 2001

Like other songs on this list, “Survivor” isn’t explicitly about PTSD but has lyrics that many PTSD survivors take comfort in.

The cause of the speaker’s downtrodden position is unspecified, but it’s one many people with PTSD relate to, especially if the source of their flashback is a person.

 Whatever the cause, this is an anthem of hope. It tells PTS survivors everywhere that they can and will overcome their trauma. It may be hard-going, and it may feel impossible, but the reason they’re listening to music now is because the darkness hasn’t overwhelmed them yet. And if they keep fighting long and hard enough, it never will.

7. Discombobulate by Hans Zimmer

Song Year: 2010

“Discombobulate” stands out because it’s one of the few instrumental songs about PTSD.

Despite the lack of lyrics, its propulsive, percussive drum beat and militaristic tempo do an excellent job of capturing the experience of PTSD.

The violin is tersely plucked, not bowed, and there’s minimal musical variation in the harmonic line. The result is a claustrophobic composition that typifies the flashback experience for many people.

8. Praying by Kesha

Song Year: 2017

When Kesha released “Praying” it followed a long hiatus from the music industry.

Kesha spent the time battling several personal demons, including sexual trauma. In that sense, “Praying” is a tribute to women everywhere who develop PTSD and depression.

Not everyone wants to be evangelized when combatting flashbacks, but that’s not what “Praying” does. Its lyrics simply remind listeners that there’s always a light in the darkness if you look hard enough. 

9. Numb by Linkin Park

Song Year: 2003

Linkin never met a subject they couldn’t compose a song about. But this song about PTSD and depression might be one of their most poignant.

Numbness is a common trauma response for people who have PTSD and the song’s lyrics describe the sensation with devastating realism.

Part of what makes “Numb” so moving is the realization that sometimes overt expressions of love do more harm than good. The speaker describes a paralytic fear that they won’t meet their loved ones’ standards. Knowing they’re loved makes the situation worse, not better.

It’s an uncomfortable truth but an important one when discussing mental

 health.

10. You Gotta Be by Des-ree

Song Year: 1999

Conversely “You Gotta Be” is a song about PTSD by Des-ree that believes love can pull you through your darkest hours.

Its refrain acknowledges that as much as it hurts to go through refiner’s fire, it’s necessary if you want to survive flashback experiences. And one of the best ways to find the inner strength to do that is to trust the people around you.

1.1 Would’ve Could’ve, Should’ve by Taylor Swift

Song Year: 2022

This is yet another song by Taylor Swift that grapples with PTSD. But “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” uses poetic imagery to tackle its theme.

The lyrics explore how many people with PTSD find themselves in loops imagining how, had they changed one little detail, they could have escaped the cause of their trauma.

Swift also sings about being plagued by ghosts and how dangerous her memories are.

All these sensations resonate with anyone who has PTSD, though they may not discuss their problems lyrically.

12. Recovery by James Arthur

Song Year: 2013

James’ Arthur’s song “Recovery” doesn’t specifically target PTSD. But the metaphors he uses when discussing his ongoing issues are broadly applicable to PTSD.

He also does excellent work highlighting the overlooked subject of men’s mental health in a way people with PTSD find accessible.

The other thing “Recovery” does well is remind people to hold onto the things they love. Whether you battle addiction, depression, PTSD, or a dizzying combination of all three, Arthur believes those things you love can help get you through your darkest hours. 

13. Not Ready To Make Nice by The Dixie Chicks

Song Year: 2006

Conversely, The Dixie Chicks’ song “Not Ready to Make Nice” is textually a song about PTSD.

It stands out from other songs on the subject because it recognizes how angry and reactionary PTSD can make people. More than that, they say those feelings are allowed.

PTSD is difficult enough without people pressuring you to forgive anyone sooner than you’re ready to. You may never be ready. And the Dixie Chicks believe that’s fine.

14. Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson

Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson

Song Year: 2007

“Keep Breathing” is another song about PTSD with a military theme. But that hasn’t stopped other people from finding it compelling.

It powerfully reminds listeners that when the world feels overwhelming all you can do is keep breathing. Don’t worry about anything else. Focus on deep breaths that keep you tethered.

15. Brave by Sarah Bareilles

Song Year: 2013

“Brave” frequently gets billed as a song about self-acceptance and that makes sense since it began life as a song in support of LGBTQIA+ people everywhere.

But it evolved beyond that. Many people with PTSD also view it as a song they can relate to. Partly, that’s because there’s a strong correlation between trauma, PTSD, and the emotional upheaval of coming out, even today.

But it’s also because the turbulent picture painted by the lyrics feels familiar to people with PTSD.

16. Silence by Marshmello

Song Year: 2007

“Silence” is primarily about childhood trauma but it’s also a song about PTSD. Not just because one can lead to the other, but because both are significant issues people don’t talk about.

Our failure to discuss these things makes people already feel isolated and vulnerable even more so. Marshmello’s song breaks down those barriers and helps facilitate necessary discussions about mental health.

17. Unwell by Matchbox Twenty

Song Year: 2003

The alternative rock band Matchbox Twenty also wrote a memorable song about PTSD.

“Unwell” tackles subjects like isolation and depression. It also explores the struggle faced by many to persuade their relatives they aren’t mad or sectionable so much as unwell. The problem is exacerbated for the speaker by how little we talked about mental health back when Matchbox Twenty released the song.

Luckily, that’s one thing that has changed since 2003.

18. Because of You by Kelly Clarkson

Song Year: 2004

Clarkson didn’t write “Because of You” to be a song about PTSD. Instead, it began as an outlet for her to explore her childhood feelings about her parents’ divorce.

The result was a mellow and thoughtful song about change, upheaval, and emotional conflict. Consequently, many people with PTSD find it relatable. And the even tempo and melodic harmony line make it extremely easy listening, perfect for recovering after a difficult flashback experience.

19. Better Place by Rachel Platten

Song Year: 2016

“Better Place” is one of the most upbeat and optimistic songs on this list of songs about PTSD.

In contrast to compositions like “Unwell,” its message is hopeful. Instead of focusing on the challenges of PTSD, it reminds listeners that whatever they have endured, they are loved.

It also emphasizes the way people transform our lives. Loved and being loved to make the world a demonstrably better, safer place. In turn, that makes PTSD feel easier to survive. 

20. Whataya Want From Me by Pink

Song Year: 2009

Several artists have recorded versions of this song about PTSD. But one of the best-known is by the artist Pink.

It’s a song that begs the people around you to show patience and compassion. It also explores the often contradictory feelings that plague people with PTSD.

Notably, Pink tweaks the lyrics to make it explicitly about male-perpetrated violence. But That’s not a factor in Lambert’s original composition.

The lyrics as written convey the confusion of being pulled in several different emotional directions simultaneously. There’s no explicit abuse suggestion, only the speaker’s demons.

Both versions of the song are memorable, compelling, and relatable to people with PTSD.

21. Hallelujah (I’m Not Dead) by Citizen Soldier

Song Year: 2021

“Hallelujah (I’m Not Dead)” blends rock music with metal and Christian music. There are several ways to interpret Citizen Soldier’s piece, but PTSD is a popular reading of the lyrics.

The speaker is uncannily familiar with death. But whether they got this way from battling chronic illness, their mental health, or something else isn’t specified. That said, the blend of anxiety, fear, and pain that is physical as well as internalized is one people with prolonged PTSD can sympathize with.

Crucially, the speaker says, they have suffered all of this and are still alive. If you’re listening, so are you. And sometimes that’s more of a triumph than we realize. 

22. Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch

Song Year: 2013

Five Finger Death Punch decided to write “Wrong Side of Heaven” after realizing how many returning veterans faced homelessness.

Their vagrant state was a significant contributing factor behind PTSD, and the song wrestles with both issues delicately.

Don’t be fooled by the bombast of the instrumentation. The sound doesn’t pull its punches, but it handles complicated issues with nuance and emotional depth that will resonate with listeners everywhere.

23. Heavy by Linkin Park

Song Year: 2017

Linkin Park has the distinction of appearing several times on this list of songs about PTSD.

Chester Bennington, who used to sing in the band, developed a reputation as a prominent mental health advocate. The songs he sang reflected the complexities of PTSD and depression in ways that resonated with listeners.

Despite his death, his work continues to do the advocacy work that made him so beloved. It’s also a source of comfort and support to people struggling with their mental health.

24. A Soldier’s Memoir by Joe Bachman

Song Year: 2013

One of the most distinctive features of Joe Bachman’s ballad about PTSD is its twelve-string banjo. It hearkens back to the folk tradition of America when artists championed important causes through music.

Joe Bachman’s cause is veterans with PTSD. The song opens with several veterans introducing themselves and their struggles and becomes more musical as it goes on.

You might expect it to be a jaunty song. Banjo pieces often are. This one is slow, thoughtful, and a heartfelt tribute to anyone who battles PTSD, whether they served in the army or not.

25. Trauma by NF

Song Year: 2019

Rapper NF is no stranger to difficult subject matter. What’s surprising about “Trauma” isn’t that it’s a song about PTSD. It’s that it’s slower and more melodic than many of NF’s most familiar songs.

There’s a tenderness to “Trauma” that makes it incredibly moving. It grapples with themes of loneliness, depression, and isolation. At its heart is a powerful petition for help from a reluctant loved one. It’s a feeling all too familiar to people with PTSD.

26. Mind Playing Tricks on Me by The Geto Boys

Song Year: 1991

Written and released in the early 1990s, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” is one of the older songs about PTSD on this list.

The song debuted on the album We Can’t Be Stopped. It was an optimistic title and listeners were surprised by this anthem for mental health. People hadn’t learned how to cogently discuss issues like PTSD, and that wasn’t the only issue prominently featured in “Mind Playing Tricks On Me.”

This heartfelt examination of the PTSD caused by inter-city living also tackled issues like:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Psychosis
  • Depression

It’s a devastating song. What makes it so powerful over thirty years later is the sincerity behind the lyrics. These were issues the band knew intimately. By bringing them to the foreground of their music, they allowed people to start discussing them openly.

27. Stress by Organized Konfusion

Song Year: 1994

We end our list of songs about PTSD with one that tackles the topic so comprehensively that it features in the title.

“Stress” has short, repetitive lyrics that beautifully capture the tunnel vision many people with PTSD experience. Its percussive rhythm reinforces the emotional claustrophobia on display.

What’s particularly interesting about “Stress” is that its genesis wasn’t military careers or city life but the pressure of hip-hop performances. That’s not to say it should be taken lightly. It’s one of the most effective portrayals of PTSD especially on young black people that music ever produced.

The song was never widely popular. But it did tremendous work to reshape how people talked about their mental health, and it’s a legacy that’s still felt today.

Popular Songs About PTSD, Final Thoughts

Songs about PTSD aren’t always easy to listen to. Sometimes they are so well done that people find them triggering to listen to.

But they can also be a source of comfort. They remind listeners that they aren’t alone, and their experience, while unique, doesn’t have to be as isolated as it feels.

The other wonderful thing about songs about PTSD is that they help people discuss important issues. Sometimes it can feel daunting to explain your personal manifestations of PTSD symptoms. Music creates a neutral, safe space to have those discussions. It may even offer valuable insights for the people around you.

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