If you’re anything like I was when I first developed my anxiety disorder, you’re likely obsessing over one important question... Can anxiety go away on its own?
Anxiety is not likely to go away on its own. Anxiety is an emotion, much like sadness, anger, or happiness. Being an emotion, anxiety is something that one will likely experience, to some degree, throughout their entire life. Rather than trying to make anxiety “go away,” the focus should be on management and reduction.
Now, I totally understand that at face value, this is probably not the answer you were hoping for.
But read on, and I think that by the end of this article your perspective on anxiety may shift radically.
Does Anxiety Last Forever?
First off, if you want to make your life a lot easier, you need to change the way you’re looking at anxiety.
Anxiety in and of itself is not unhealthy, atypical, or “bad.”
In fact, if you had absolutely NO anxiety, ever, this would likely constitute a far more serious mental health problem.
Anxiety is an emotion, like any other: Sadness, Anger, Happiness, etc. So, learn to think of it this way.
Nobody likes feeling sad, angry, or jealous. If we could choose to never feel these emotions again, many of us would jump at the chance. But we all accept that these emotions are just an inevitable part of life.
Anxiety works in exactly the same way. It is just like any other emotion.
Some days we’ll feel sadder. Other days we’ll feel less sad.
Some days we’ll feel more anxious. Other days we’ll feel less anxious.
Sometimes we’ll go many days without feeling sad at all.
Sometimes we’ll go many days without feeling anxious at all.
Yet, on the days we feel less sad, we understand that we will occasionally have some sad days in our future.
This is how you need to view anxiety.
Understand the reality that some days will be worse than others. Don’t expect a good day to mean that you are now immune to ever feeling a negative emotion again. And, more importantly, don’t view a bad day as a sign that you’re going to feel this way forever.
Anxiety is a passing state that we should naturally expect to feel from time to time throughout the course of our lives.
This does not mean that anxiety is something we need to constantly fear, avoid, or ruminate on.
Your focus should, instead, be directed towards understanding, managing, and reducing your anxiety.
We’ll get to that later in the article.
Is Anxiety Ever Good?
Anxiety probably won't go away on it's own, but having some degree of anxiety is totally normal.
In fact, it would be concerning if you had never experienced any anxiety at all.
Just about every living animal has some sort of “fight or flight” anxiety mechanism in place to help it survive. This is basically a signal from the brain that tells us, something’s not right here, I might be in danger. From there, our brain shoots us with a nice little dose of adrenaline as a way to help us “escape” from whatever stressful situation we are in.
The problem with this is, the 21st century is a much safer environment than the ones our ancestors evolved in while our brain structures were being formed. But our brains are still constantly scanning ourselves and our environment, always seeking the next threat.
In people who suffer from higher levels of anxiety, our brain’s “threat detection system” is just a little more active. There may not be a lion in the bushes, but hey, come to think of it, my breathing does feel a little bit off…
We need some anxiety to keep us safe.
Anxiety helps to provide us with that “gut feeling” that tells us something’s not right. Sometimes this feeling is unwarranted, but other times it helps us to identify a real threat or problem in our lives.
With absolutely no anxiety, you would lack the foresight to even look both ways before crossing the street.
This is just something to bear in mind; anxiety is not your enemy; it is your brain’s threat detection system.
Don’t obsess about shutting it off, just work towards fine-tuning it.
In another article, we discuss in detail exactly what anxiety is and why we experience it. If you’re curious to know more, I highly recommend giving it a read.
The Difference Between Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders
By now I’ve probably drilled the idea into your head sufficiently, but I'll say it again for good measure: some anxiety is normal.
So, when is anxiety not normal?
What is the difference between anxiety and anxiety disorders? Where is the line drawn, exactly?
Some anxiety is normal. Even a lot of anxiety is normal, occasionally. Important life events like going for a job interview, taking an important exam, or getting married, are all major events that can cause anxiety. Anxiety in these situations is so normal that it is almost universally expected in anyone.
Anxiety starts to become an anxiety disorder when it becomes increasingly frequent, severe, or interferes with your day-to-day life.
- Feeling anxious about your first day of work is normal anxiety.
Feeling anxious every single day at work may indicate general or social anxiety disorder.
- Having a mini panic attack when your dog escapes the yard is normal anxiety.
Having a panic attack at random intervals throughout the week may indicate panic disorder.
- Experiencing fear when you’re abruptly cut off on the highway is normal anxiety.
Experiencing fear every time you get in a vehicle may indicate a phobia.
Regular, healthy, day-to-day anxiety may come and go away on its own, but a worsening anxiety disorder will not go away on its own.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with your anxiety. Determine which anxiety disorder, if any, you are dealing with, as this will determine the best ways for you to manage it.
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How to Manage Anxiety
Rather than just wondering whether your anxiety can go away on its own, there are tons of steps you can take to manage anxiety.
Methods that will help you to reduce both the frequency and severity of panic attacks and anxiety include:
- Anxiety Prevention – The first step to managing anxiety is always prevention. Anxiety prevention consists mostly of lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, and possibly supplements. We’ve written a whole article about anxiety prevention already, so click over there to learn about some of the most effective anxiety prevention methods currently available. Don't skip this step; these changes work!
- Counseling and Therapy – I actually dealt with my own anxiety without the help of a therapist, but I don’t want to detract from their effectiveness. Psychotherapy methods such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can work wonders for treating anxiety. If things are getting rough for you and you’d rather not go it alone, I totally support seeking professional help.
- Exposure Therapy – Exposure therapy is one of my favorite methods to decrease panic attacks and anxiety. The gist of it involves exposing yourself to the smallest amount of your anxiety trigger as you possibly can without launching into a panic attack. There are many ways to go about this, so check out our Exposure Therapy article if it sounds interesting to you.
- Severe Anxiety and Panic Attack Techniques – Really understanding what to do to decrease anxiety in the moment can be a huge turning point for you. This type of information is pretty much scattered all across the site in various blog posts, but a good place to start is here: How to Stop a Panic Attack.
Utilizing even just one of these methods (the more the better) should help you to greatly decrease anxiety in your day-to-day life.
Panic and Anxiety Relapse
So, can anxiety go away on its own?
Probably not, but it also doesn’t have to. Some anxiety is normal, and less-normal anxiety disorders can be easily managed in most cases, as demonstrated above.
But this still leaves one dreaded question: The issue of panic attack and anxiety relapses.
Maybe I’ve got a grip on my anxiety for now, but how do I get rid of anxiety forever?
The hard truth is, if you suffer from an anxiety disorder, there’s a very good chance that you will suffer from the occasional anxiety relapse.
To be honest, this used to be one of my biggest fears.
Just one “off” day and my panic disorder could cause an anxiety relapse worse than ever before?
The thought is terrifying, but truthfully, not nearly as bad as it seems.
One thing I can say for sure is that each anxiety relapse tends to be “not quite as bad” as the last one. Over time, you’ll develop more and more methods for dealing with your anxiety, making it easy to squash minor relapses before they can become the big deal they used to be.
Each anxiety relapse (hopefully you won’t have many) will probably be less intense and shorter in duration than the previous one.
I consider myself to have an excellent grip on my panic disorder (so much so, that to this day, not a single one of my friends has ever seen me have a panic attack). But this doesn’t make me immune to the occasional panic attack.
I consider anxiety relapse to be a normal thing that we should not only expect, but embrace.
You can decrease the odds of having an anxiety relapse by actually challenging yourself to “look forward” to your next anxiety attack rather than dreading it. This may sound crazy, but it actually is a powerful tool to help take back control of anxiety on your own terms.
Every anxiety relapse is a little bit easier than the last one.
Every future anxiety attack is an opportunity to apply what you have learned, and to realize that, hey, this isn’t quite as bad as I remembered it being. This will pass. I’ve got this.
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