Does Anxiety Go Away? An Honest Response
I’ve received hundreds of comments and emails from readers since I started this blog two years ago – many of them memorable and most of them greatly appreciated – but there is one that has stuck with me above all the others:
I’m 23 and I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety since I was 13. I just recently stopped seeing my therapist because like you, I’m also an introvert and I don’t think it was helping me much at all. I really want to thank you for writing this post because it made me feel so much better and optimistic about finding some type of a solution to the way that I feel. It’s given me a sense of hope if that makes sense. WHEN YOU’RE USED TO FEELING A CERTAIN WAY FOR SO LONG, YOU START TO GIVE UP EVENTUALLY and after reading this, I want to continue to put one foot in front of the other and take the initiative to step back and analyze my life!
I added the CAPs to emphasize the part of this comment I want to focus on today. More specifically, I want to focus on anxiety and I want to speak to those of you who have started giving up hope that it will ever go away.
Medical websites often throw around the term “easily treatable” in reference to anxiety and maybe that is applicable to some people. But I know it wasn’t applicable to me and I know it hasn’t been applicable to many of my readers.
So if you have started to have doubts… If you have found yourself asking “does anxiety go away”… Like REALLY? Does anxiety REALLY ever actually go away?
Here is my experience as someone who at one point asked this same question and pretty much lost hope that it was ever possible.
Does Anxiety Go Away? An Honest Response
Before I answer the question “does anxiety go away” with a “yes” or a “no”, we need to get on the same page about what we mean when we say “anxiety”.
If by “anxiety” you mean any of the following…
- Occasionally feeling worried
- Occasionally experiencing stress
- Your body’s stress response – aka fight-or-flight response – being triggered in response to perceived stressors or threats
…then the honest answer is no. Anxiety does not ever go away. The only people who never experience the above are people who have some kind of a brain injury or other defect and people who are medicated heavily enough that their stress response is completely shut down.
However, if by “anxiety” you mean any of the following…
- Being in a heightened state of alert the vast majority of the time.
- Having a hard time returning to a calm state after your stress response is triggered.
- Constantly being weighed down by fears and worries and not being able to let them go.
- Being held back in life, because anxiety is preventing you from taking action.
…then the answer is YES. Yes, it’s possible to get rid of that kind of anxiety. And I know it’s possible, because I have experienced it myself.
A related question is “Can you cure anxiety without medication?” And as long as we are sticking with the latter definition of anxiety, my answer remains YES.
Again, I know it’s possible, because I have experienced it myself. I first tried to control my anxiety symptoms with medications, and while medications did do a lot to calm me down, the side effects were so unbearable I felt like I was just exchanging one set of problems for another. After trying numerous combinations of medications, I eventually concluded that I had to find another way. And I did.
Now, even if you’ve gotten this far in the article, you might not be entirely convinced. Maybe you are thinking that my experience must be different from yours in some fundamental ways. Maybe you have already tried various remedies and they just didn’t work.
Again, I’m very familiar with this line of thinking, because I’ve been there. 🙂 I didn’t go from “24/7 dread” to “mostly calm” overnight. I too tried countless remedies that were touted as miracle cures, but that just didn’t work for me.
So let me share with you a few mistakes I made in my own anxiety recovery journey that held me back. Perhaps some of them are applicable to you too.
5 Reasons Why Your Anxiety Is Not Going Away
1. You Think A Single Anxiety Remedy Should Do The Trick
When you seek help or guidance for overcoming anxiety, you are often offered a single remedy. This is because the people offering help typically specialize in a single area of expertise. There is so much information available in the modern world that it’s hard for any one person to be a jack of all trades – most people specialize.
So the cognitive behavioral therapist will tell you the problem is the way you think about and perceive things, and if you would just fix that, all would be well.
The nutritionist will tell you that the problem is your diet, and if you would just fix that, all would be well.
The meditation guru will tell you that the problem is too much thinking, and if you would just fix that, all would be well.
And so on.
So you try what each of them suggests, but none of it really helps. Maybe a given remedy will help a little bit, for a moment, but then the anxiety sneaks back in. So you give up on that remedy and move on to the next one. Until eventually you’ve tried them all and you conclude that the situation is hopeless. (Understandably!)
The issue here is that us humans are very complicated beings leading very complicated lives. When we run into a problem, there is often more than one factor fueling the problem.
I’m not saying that there wasn’t ever a person who suffered from anxiety due to a single cause that was easily addressed with one remedy.
But if your anxiety has developed to the point that you are starting to doubt whether it’s ever possible to recover, my guess is that you are like me in that your anxiety is fueled by more than one factor.
For me, overcoming anxiety required much more than a single miracle cure. It required a HOLISTIC approach. It required addressing physiological, lifestyle, and cognitive causes of anxiety. All at the same time.
To keep things manageable, I implemented remedies one at a time, and they each added a little bit of relief by themselves, but in order to achieve FULL recovery, I needed to implement a whole bunch of different remedies that were all attacking the same problem from different directions.
Your bunch may look a little different from mine, but the point I want to make here is that you might need multiple remedies in order to fully recover from anxiety.
2. You Are Not Sticking With Anxiety Remedies Long Enough
Here’s something else that happens when you’ve been struggling with anxiety for a long time.
You’ve tried various anxiety remedies and they didn’t work. So your expectation becomes that anxiety remedies don’t usually work. All the things that were supposed to help in the past didn’t, so why would you get your hopes up for the next shiny thing that probably won’t work either? And from that point on, you give any new remedies only half a chance. You don’t stick with them for very long before you declare them just another dud.
This “not sticking to it” is further exacerbated by all the “easily treatable” and “miracle cure” messaging. When things don’t happen so easily or miraculously for you, you start thinking that there must be something fundamentally wrong with you that makes you incurable.
Again, I know this place, because I’ve been there. 🙂
But the fact is that many of the anxiety remedies that finally did the trick for me not only didn’t work except when combined with other remedies, but also took a while to fully see the results from. Some of them took a while, because there was physical healing that had to take place. Others took a while, because implementing them correctly took practice.
To be perfectly clear, I’m not talking years here. If you’ve been doing something for years and it’s not helping at all, then move on to something else! Fast!
But some things I’ve done took several weeks to see results from. And it took me many months to implement enough components of my holistic program to get to a point where I could say “okay, I have this thing beat”.
And I’m STILL seeing progress to this day, because some things take longer than others.
Here are things I achieved in a relatively short period of time (months):
- Getting out of the 24/7 dread to a point were I felt calm and relaxed a majority of the time.
- Learning to quickly calm myself down whenever my stress response would be triggered (most of the time anyway).
What has taken much longer and is still ongoing:
- Preventing my stress response from being triggered in the first place. The fight-or-flight response is triggered so fast that you don’t become conscious of it until it’s already happening. It’s therefore much harder to control. And it’s also important to remember that it’s not supposed to go away completely. It’s normal and healthy to react to threats and stressors! With that being said, it IS possible to become less reactive, although this has been a long-term game for me (years). It’s only very slowly that my brain and nervous system are learning to become less jumpy. 🙂 And to be honest (as promised!), I will likely always be more sensitive to potential fear triggers than the average person.
3. You Apply Anxiety Remedies In The Wrong Order
Another thing I learned the hard way is that anxiety remedies need to be applied in a certain order.
Anxiety is basically stress on steroids. If you are doing things like breathing exercises or writing in your gratitude journal, without addressing the BIG things that are stressing you out, it’s kind of like trying to put out a forest fire with a glass of water.
For more on the order in which I needed to apply various anxiety remedies, please see my post 8 Natural Anxiety Remedies That Actually Work.
4. You Have Too Much Faith In Science
I hate saying this, because I actually love science. We obviously need science. Science has helped humanity in countless ways. My husband used to be a science teacher. Hell, I’m a trained social scientist myself!
But one thing I’ve discovered the hard way is that science is not perfect. It’s often biased. It’s never complete.
And more than anything, science is painfully slow. If I had waited for science to tell me “what works for anxiety” and only followed mainstream, scientifically validated advice, I wouldn’t be well enough to be sitting here writing this article to you today.
So I still read scientific studies and take them into consideration. And you won’t see me falling for woo-woo remedies. But my #1 criteria for evaluating anxiety remedies these days is not what science says, but what my own mind and body say.
If exercise makes me feel less anxious, then I don’t need scientific consensus to prove to me that it helps. (They are still debating that one! ;))
5. You Think That Anxiety Is All In Your Head
Which brings us to my final point…
Since anxiety is categorized as a “mental” illness, it’s easy to conclude that anxiety is simply a disease of the mind – that if you could just convince yourself to see the light and think rationally – all would be well.
And it’s not that learning to challenge your irrational beliefs isn’t helpful at all – I actually think that’s a very necessary part of the process. But no amount of rational thinking will do the trick if your anxiety is at least partially fueled by factors that make things go wonky in your body as a whole. It could be a problem with your sleep. Or it could be a problem with nutrition. Or it could be a stressful lifestyle in general.
The greatest leaps in my own recovery from anxiety came not from “seeing the light”, but from boring age-old principles of healthy living.
Good sleep. Whole foods.
Exercise. Fresh air.
LOTS of stress reduction. By both removing stressors and by learning to deal better with those that were worth dealing with.
Healthy low-stress living allowed me to get out of the 24/7 dread and find calm. I now stay calm (for the most part anyway! 🙂 ), because a) I continue to prioritize basic self care and b) I have a method for recovering quickly whenever my stress response is triggered. I have a method for processing fears and worries so that they never blow out of proportion.
That’s it. No gimmicks or miracle cures.
So YES, it is possible. YES, anxiety DOES go away! 😀
Want A Plan For Implementing All The Anxiety Remedies That Worked For Me?
Are you sick and tired of being anxious and ready to do something about it? If yes, you might be interested in my Conquer Your Anxiety eBook Bundle. It’s a step-by-step guide that walks you through implementing 21 anxiety remedies. With this guide, I will teach you how to anxiety-proof your body, create a tranquil lifestyle, and process fears and worries so that they never get out of control. Click here to learn more! 🙂