If you're brainstorming mental health or anxiety tattoos for the next time you get inked, check out these thoughtful ideas.
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Woman laying on a blanket outdoors with sun light on her face and arms, showcasing a small tattoo of a semicolon
Credit: Getty

Many people have been seeking out anxiety tattoo ideas to serve as daily grounding reminders or spark conversations that can help raise awareness around mental health, especially in the last few years. "During 2020 and 2021 we have seen an increased number of inquiries for the designs that were connected to mental health compared to 2019," says Milena Petrovic, co-founder of Tattoo Stylist. "The thematics ranged from symbols that tackle depression, anxiety, addiction or self-injury."

One common option is semicolon tattoos (an idea that emerged from Project Semicolon, a nonprofit dedicated to mental illness), says Petrovic. However, anxiety tattoos can come in many shapes and sizes, with variations of images and symbols that tie in an individual's experience, serving as a deeply personal reminder of living with anxiety. "The designs are often associated with self-strength, self-empowerment, and a motivation to keep going when [it's tempting] to give up," says Nic El, owner and tattoo artist at Gorilla Tattoo Paphos.

Popular phrases also include "breathe" or "be here now" as well as smaller illustrations inked as reminders that tough days shall pass, says Petrovic, who adds that Tattoo Stylist has seen an increase in anchor or root designs (a symbol for keeping a person grounded) and geometric patterns (to encourage clarity when thoughts feel overwhelming). Then there are words or images that are completely unique to someone's journey with anxiety.

Below are 14 anxiety tattoos with explanations on what these illustrations represent beyond the surface.

Anxiety Tattoo Ideas

Ellipsis

ellipsis tattoo on index finger
Credit: Claire Miller

"Anxiety is something I've struggled with since I was 17," says Claire Miller, who went with an ellipsis tattoo. "In stories, [an ellipsis] tells the reader to slow down and that there is more to come, which is exactly what I need when I'm feeling anxious. No matter how difficult it feels in the moment, I can pause and remember those feelings don't define my story and there is more to come as I move forward."

Constellation

Big Dipper asterism tattoo on female wrist
Credit: Julia Joy Sweeney

"I have a Big Dipper on my wrist to remind myself the world is bigger than myself when I feel anxious," says Julia Joy Sweeney, who's pictured above. "The tattoo is also an homage to Nantucket, where I grew up. It was tradition to sit on our deck most nights and look for the Big Dipper and shooting stars. They're some of my happiest memories so I wanted a daily reminder of that."

Butterfly

woman sitting by pool in red swimsuit with butterfly tattoo
Credit: Arvie Narido

To some, butterfly tattoos may symbolize nothing more than a pretty design, but Arvie Narido associates the tattoos with mental health. "Although it was not my first tattoo, I got [this tattoo] during the peak of my anxiety in 2017," says Narido. "The tattoo signifies my thirst for freedom and transformation. For three years, I was in the wrong relationship. I wanted to get out so badly, but I couldn't during that time. This tattoo helped to remind me that despite all the shame, pain, and fragility, I'm still beautiful, and there's hope for me. At the same time, it helped me believe that there's redemption and transformation at the end of the road."

Polar Bears

hand drawn polar bear tattoo
Credit: Milena

Petrovic created this design for a client who wanted to reference his struggles with mental illness. "This design represents two polar bears in their opposite, but complementary, states of mind," she says. "One of the bears is awake, happy, alert, and ready for action. The other one is sleepy, sad, and depressed. They also do not interact, and they do not look at each other. The one that's ready for action is looking straight at you. The other one has his eyes closed."

"Walk By Faith"

four female feet in the sand with matching tattoos that say Walk by Faith
Credit: Autumn Grant

Autumn Grant got this tattoo to match with the rest of the female staffers at Beneath the Skin, a mental health non-profit. "Personally, I struggle with anxiety and need a reminder that I'm never alone," she says. "Our nonprofit's mission is to help millennial and Gen Z women find hope and connection. We each got the words 'walk by faith' to remind us of the incredible work we're doing and to know we are never alone in any season of life. Life can be scary, and sometimes you need to take it one step at a time. We have faith in ourselves, in our community, and in our program to overcome anxiety and other mental health issues.

Lionesses

closeup of leg with lion tattoo
Credit: Ashley Paige

Maryland-based tattoo artist Ashley Paige created this tattoo inspired by lionness' fearless and protective natures. "My client was a Black woman and new mother who was experiencing significant anxiety due to the state of the country, but especially over the last few years," she says. "She has two daughters that she adores, and we spent most of her session speaking about them and the life she wants for them. She needed a sense of peace about the safety of her girls and her ability to protect them. We decided on a fearless lioness with her cubs leaning into one another as a gentle reminder that even when her time passes, her girls will have each other as support. The world is so unpredictable and anxiety-inducing, but sometimes a picture that is worth a thousand words can be surprisingly grounding and a new tattoo can bring you peace."

Arrows

female wrist with two arrow tattoos pointing forward
Credit: Madison Tong

When considering tattoo ideas for anxiety, Madison Tong settled on this simple design. It's meant as a reminder to keep moving forward even when anxiety strikes, says Tong. "Anxiety has always been a struggle for me and getting these arrows tattooed on me reminds me to keep going and that I can move past this hard time. This tattoo helps me overcome my anxiety and power through it."

National Eating Disorders Association Symbol

Hand holding acai bowl with small tattoo on wrist
Credit: Amanda Feldman Jay

"I have an anxiety tattoo that I got to commemorate my eating disorder recovery journey," says Amanda Feldman Jay, pictured above. "While struggling through an eating disorder in college as well as the deeply painful recovery, I told myself I would get a tattoo once recovered as a symbol of my strength and I'm proud to have gotten it almost exactly eight years ago. I do still cope with anxiety nearly every day of my life but my tattoo serves as a daily reminder of what I've overcome and what I'm capable of. It is a small symbol on my left wrist and is the official symbol of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). It is recognizable as a stylized heart which can also be interpreted as the outline of a female body. Many people also associate it as a combination of two lines which combine to represent strength and recovery."

Bisected Mandala

man showing mandala tattoo on inner forearm
Credit: Nick El

"Anxiety comes in various forms and strengths: it can be chronic, a result of a big incident, or a buildup of 'less significant' events," says Nic El, owner and tattoo artist at Gorilla Tattoo Paphos, who has this mandala tattoo. "When anxiety hits me for whatever reason, I get a tattoo." He views the tattoos as reminders to clear his mind and block out negative thoughts. "Those tattoos are checkpoints in my life, they help me to never forget what I've been through and motivate me to keep going," he says. "Spiritual tattoos — mandala, hamsa, chakra, tree of life, Budha, lotus, etc. — are common for battling anxiety. They symbolize the overcoming of struggle, protection, self care, rebirth, the circle of life, kindness, strength, new challenges, and new beginnings."

Unalome

black and green Unalome symbol tattoo
Credit: Grichell Pelizzari

Grichell Pelizzari, L.M.F.T., a therapist at Thriveworks in Pflugerville, Texas views tattoos as a cue to channel her emotions and clear her head. "Pain therapy sessions have become an excellent outlet for me during high stress," she says. "It's easy to let anxiety cloud the mind with fear and doubt." Unalome, the symbol from Buddhism that she chose, represents the path to enlightenment, she notes. "As you progress through life's path, the twists and turns and ups and downs in the pattern signify the struggles of life," says Pelizzari. "This tattoo reminds me that each of my trials and tribulations in life is meant to teach me a lesson. I must learn from all the ups and downs to achieve enlightenment. I have had many twists and turns, which I chose to grow from to become a better person."

Colorful Mandala

closeup of thigh with colorful mandala tattoo
Credit: Ashley Paige

Paige created this tattoo for a client who'd dealt with anxiety about her body for years. "This client experienced a life of self-consciousness and anxiety fueled by societal views on her weight," she says. "She had gone years without wearing shorts or feeling confident enough to show her legs. She thought she was 'too dark and too fat' to feel sexy about the lower part of her body. I am also a dark-skinned woman who has experienced obesity, though I've worked for years to lose over 100 pounds. I remember being made to feel less than beautiful because of my body. I had the honor of providing my client with a beautiful colored piece that had her posing in the mirror and planning a whole new wardrobe before she left the studio. She left with a renewed confidence and lessened anxiety around her body, and that made my heart full." (Related: Racism Needs to Be Part of the Conversation About Dismantling Diet Culture

Sigils

set of sigils tattoo on back of leg
Credit: Kari Martin

Kari Martin opted for a trio of sigils, which are symbols used in magic. "[I chose] a set of sigils on the back of my leg," says Martin. "The top sigil stands for, 'I am protected,' the bottom left stands for, 'I am powerful,' the bottom right stands for 'my fear and anxiety will not control or define me.'"

Shoulder Mandala

closeup of shoulder with mandala tattoo
Credit: Bri Hamlet

Bri Hamlet, owner and founder JustBriFree Yoga, chose a mandala, viewing the symbol as more than just a beautiful design. "Mandalas are sacred symbols that are highly visible in Buddhism and Hinduism," she says. "Looking at the repetitive, geometric nature of mandalas is incredibly soothing and meditative. It's also familiar, as my maternal family is Buddhist. To have one on my body is to have a constant reminder that I too am sacred and unique — a wonderful affirmation for someone with anxiety."

Semicolon Butterfly

green butterfly and red rose tattoos on inner female wrist
Credit: Grichell Pelizzari

"This tattoo symbolizes suicide attempts, growth, and children's mental health," says Grichell Pelizzari, proud owner of the body art. "The semicolon means your story is not over. The butterfly shows that you can be reborn into something beautiful and unique. The colors green and white are for children's mental health. I work with many children and teens who have battled suicidal thoughts and attempts. I have also struggled with those thoughts throughout my life. I got the tattoo with two clinicians after a tough week. We wanted something to show our kids that they were not alone, and even though we as adults and mental health providers seem to have it all together, we have also struggled. The tattoo is small and says, I see you, I hear, but keep going."

Om Symbol with Lotus

woman in car with large lotus ohm tattoo on arm
Credit: Grichell Pelizzari

Pelizzari also has this design featuring an om symbol and lotus, both important symbols with importance in multiple Eastern religions. "The Om represents the union of the mind, body, and spirit, and the Lotus symbolizes purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration, and rebirth," notes Pelizzari. "Even when its roots are in the dirtiest waters, the Lotus produces the most beautiful flower. The tattoo represents how I have blossomed, no matter how much I have struggled. I could not have become who I am today without the struggles."

Grasshopper Mouse

male with Grasshopper Mouse arm tattoo
Credit: Heath Fradkoff

Rather than one of the more conventional anxiety/mental health tattoo ideas, Heath Fradkoff chose a grasshopper mouse. "The Grasshopper Mouse lives in some of the harshest desert climates," says Fradkoff. "It comes out to feed at night and you wouldn't think much of it if you saw one. However, this tiny creature has evolved to hunt scorpions and other dangerous prey, sometimes twice its size. It has developed the ability to take multiple stings that would kill larger animals (possibly humans) and not only keep fighting but actually turn those toxins into a sort of 'energy drink' cocktail in its bloodstream. Oh, and when it's done, it actually howls into the night to claim its territory. To me, this image is especially aspirational and symbolic. It's a reminder to be unassuming, even discounted at times. But when the situation calls for it, be fearless. Step out of the shadows, take your stings without even wincing, and tear the tail right off the damn scorpion."

"Keep Dancing"

black and white photo of tattoo that says Keep Dancing
Credit: Dan Lindley

"I got 'Keep Dancing' on my ribs," says Dan Lindley of this tattoo. "It's my therapist's advice on dealing with anxiety. Acknowledging it's there, but not making it my dancing partner so to speak. Keep moving with your current engagements it'll pass on its own. Giving anxiety all of your attention doesn't do any good."