Lessons on Anxiety from 'The Walking Dead'

It's unlikely that the creators of the wildly popular AMC show The Walking Dead designed it to give people lessons on anxiety. Unbeknownst to them, however, zombies are actually an ideal metaphor for anxiety. Don't watch the show? No problem. No matter your degree of fandom for the show, The Walking Dead can definitely teach us about anxiety. Take a deep breath, conjure up images of zombies, and read on to learn important lessons on anxiety.

Metaphorical Lessons on Anxiety from 'The Walking Dead'

The zombies in The Walking Dead keep coming relentlessly -- sometimes one or two stragglers, sometimes in hordes. They hone in on their target, and they move toward it with single-minded focus. They surround. The characters are often trapped and afraid, feeling as if there is no escape, that they will be consumed by the zombies.

Anxiety is just like a zombie. More accurately, it's like a horde of zombies because rarely do we have a single anxious thought or worry at a time. Anxiety, fear, and worries pursue us like the undead in search of the next meal. The Walking Dead and its zombies are metaphors for anxiety in other ways, too, and the survivors (yes, the survivors) are metaphors for people dealing with anxiety every day.

5 Lessons On Anxiety from The Walking Dead

  1. We can learn lessons on anxiety from The Walking Dead. Zombies are a perfect metaphor for anxiety. Use zombies for lessons on anxiety. How? Read this.The control center is in the brain. The only thing living in a zombie, supposedly, is a virus in the brain. Anxiety is in the brain, too. But it's still your brain and you are very much alive. You can use your creative, intelligent brain to take back your thoughts and your life.
  2. Zombies and anxiety are driven only by survival. In The Walking Dead, the zombies are constantly on the move for their next meal. To anxiety, we are a meal. Anxiety needs to survive, so it attacks us and feeds on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We, though, are far more complex than that. We have intelligence, strength, motivations, goals, and desires. We have a full life to live, and we have free will. That means anxiety is just on auto-pilot so we can outsmart it and get away.
  3. Zombies and anxiety don't learn. Anxiety just wants to keep control over us, so it keeps doing its same old tricks, creating excessive worry, fear, and panic. We are higher-order beings. We learn, grow, and evolve. That means we can learn new skills for beating anxiety.
  4. Zombies and anxiety don't practice self-care. Have you seen an image of a zombie? Zombies really let themselves go. Anxiety is like that. The only thing it does to make itself look "good" is to cut us down. We, though, can practice self-care to strengthen and build ourselves up in order to fight anxiety.
  5. Zombies and anxiety don't have anything to live for. Anxiety exists for one purpose: to keep existing. To do that, it has to feed on us like a zombie feeds on its victims. Again, we're so much more than that. We have hopes, dreams, and things to live for. We are capable of defining and creating a life worth living. That gives us power over anxiety.

The Walking Dead does much more than entertain. It personifies anxiety, and, in doing so, it shows us how little control anxiety really has. Even better, it helps us realize that we're survivors who continue to fight anxiety -- and win.

Let's connect. I blog here. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. My mental health novels, including one about severe anxiety, are here.

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2016, February 18). Lessons on Anxiety from 'The Walking Dead', HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Dr Musli Ferati
March, 1 2016 at 1:11 am

Another excellent article on anxiety, as common emotional quantitative disorder. We live in coexitence with this corroding feeling along daily global functioning. For that all, we didn't experience its consequences, because it depend of its intensity and longevity, as well. Active and creative lifestyle is the most preventable measure to avoid its bad repercussion to our welfare. It is in concordance with your five lesson, in which we learn the mainstay of our living and existence. To live means to growing physically, psychically and emotionally in order to be productive and acceptable in respective social milieu. To achieve this goal it should be in continual movement. Static attitude increase the pathological effects of anxiety, because life is an infinitive journey and not an hypertenacitic attention. In a word, it ought to be active as much as possible in order to soften the sharp pain of anxiety, as innate emotional disturbance. Without ignoring the psychiatric treatment of anxiety as mood disorder, these lessons are welcomed ways to face in satisfactory level with anxiety.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 1 2016 at 12:20 pm

Greetings Dr. Ferati,
You've touched on something so important, and I'm glad you took the time to share your thoughts. Anxiety can seem to bring life to a screeching halt. It can be very difficult to move forward and to take action in the face of anxiety, but doing that is one of the most important ways to overcome anxiety. This movement can often be made less difficult with professional help and support. I love your definition of "to live," and positive movement despite anxiety helps this growth happen. As always, your insights are welcome and appreciated.

February, 19 2016 at 7:05 am

I like walking dead very much. I have been following it for several years now. This is the best series for me. I cannot wait for another episode to come. It's very thrilling and teaches us a lesson for survival.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 19 2016 at 11:51 am

Hello Demfy,
It's great for our well-being to relax and escape into an enjoyable show!

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