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Does purple mean anxiety?

Does purple mean anxiety?

Anxiety is a common mental health condition that involves excessive and persistent worry about everyday situations. While anxiety is often characterized by physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, trembling, and sweating, some believe that certain colors may also be linked to anxiety.

In particular, the color purple has gained attention for its potential connection to anxiety. But what does the research show regarding purple and anxiety? And why might this association exist in the first place?

The Meaning of the Color Purple

Purple has long been associated with royalty, spirituality, and mystery. However, purple can also represent more negative concepts like gloom, sadness, and frustration. This dual symbolism may be why purple is often linked to anxiety and other mental health conditions.

In color psychology, purple is seen as a combination of passionate red and calm blue. Therefore, purple takes on qualities of both excitation and tranquility. This dichotomy parallels how anxiety involves both mental hyperarousal and efforts to self-soothe.

Additionally, lighter shades of purple like lavender are thought to have a calming effect. Darker purples may evoke gloominess. So the particular shade of purple may also influence its connection to anxiety.

Purple in Anxiety Assessment

Some psychological screening tools use the color purple in assessing anxiety levels. For example, in the Burns Anxiety Inventory, respondents rate how much statements apply to them on a scale from 0 to 4. The scale color-codes the severity of anxiety as follows:

Color Anxiety Severity
Purple Extreme anxiety
Blue High anxiety
Green Moderate anxiety
Yellow Mild anxiety
White No anxiety

The implicit association is that as anxiety levels rise, the color moves up the rainbow spectrum from white to purple. So purple represents peak anxiety on this scale.

Purple in Anxiety Art and Media

Purple also appears in artistic depictions of anxiety and in branding for resources related to anxiety. Some examples include:

  • Many anxiety art pieces incorporate the color purple through brush strokes, backgrounds, or subjects.
  • Purple Ribbon: The color of the National Anxiety Disorders Association.
  • Lavender: Slang term for benzodiazepines like lorazepam used to treat anxiety.
  • Purple Monster: Mascot for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

This creative use of purple helps visually represent anxiety experiences and makes purple part of anxiety iconography.

Purple Lighting for Anxiety

There is some research on using purple lighting to create calming environments that may help with anxiety. A 2015 study found that purple LED lighting helped reduce anxious behavior and improve sleep quality in mice. Another study in humans linked purple lighting to reduced pulse rate and heart rate variability, two physical signs of anxiety.

Experts theorize purple wavelengths interact with circadian rhythms and visual receptors in a way that promotes relaxation. This demonstrates a potential clinical application of the color purple to anxiety management.

Purple Clothing and Anxiety

Could wearing purple help ease anxiety? One study analyzed how clothing color influenced heart rate and stress levels while participants gave speeches. Researchers found those wearing purple had lower heart rates than those wearing red, suggesting purple has anxiety-reducing effects.

People with anxiety may naturally gravitate towards purple clothing for its calming qualities. However, more research is needed to determine how purple clothing could influence anxiety symptoms.

Purple Foods and Anxiety

Nutrition may also play a role in purple’s connection to anxiety. Some purple foods like berries, grapes, and eggplant contain antioxidants that help combat inflammation implicated in anxiety. The anthocyanins giving these foods their purple pigment have demonstrated anti-anxiety properties in animal studies.

In one experiment, rats fed purple sweet potato extract for 2 weeks exhibited significant reductions in anxiety behaviors. The color purple in plants often signals antioxidant properties. More research is needed to confirm if purple plant compounds could help protect against anxiety in humans as well.

Purple Nature and Anxiety

Being in nature may provide anxiety relief, and purple colors in nature could enhance this effect. Purple-hued sunrises, sunsets, and night skies are thought to have a particularly calming, restorative influence.

Purple flowers like lavender and lilac also have peaceful associations. Gardening with purple flowers is recommended as natural stress relief for anxiety. The tranquil sight of purple in nature may trigger neurological responses that lower anxiety.


In summary, purple has become culturally and clinically linked to anxiety, though the evidence for any direct relationship is limited. Calming shades of purple like lavender may have relaxing properties that provide a coping tool for anxious individuals. More research is needed to determine the psychological and physiological mechanisms behind purple’s anxiety associations.

But given purple’s connection to spirituality and mindfulness, embracing purple meaningfully through art, clothing, lighting, or nature therapy may help some people self-soothe anxiety. Those struggling with severe anxiety should still seek professional treatment and support.

While purple is not a cure, for many this rich hue evokes a sense of tranquility and magic that can temporarily transport anxious minds to a calmer state of being.