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If Any One Can Overcome Anxiety Disorder, Why Do Some People Have Anxiety Disorder Long-Term Or Their Entire Lives?

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Updated: May 11, 2019

Anxiety occurs when we think in an apprehensive way (fearful that something bad or unpleasant will happen). Anxiety disorder occurs when we think in overly apprehensive ways, and doing so and its consequences interfere with a normal lifestyle.

Therefore, anxiety disorder is not caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, a biological problem with the brain, or by genes. Anxiety disorder is caused by unhealthy behaviors—the ways we think and act in overly apprehensive, therefore, anxious ways.

Apprehensive: anxious, worried, uneasy, concerned, nervous, agitated, afraid, scared, frightened, fearful

To successfully treat anxiety disorder, we need to learn to behave (think and act) in less apprehensive ways, and ways more consistent with “normal” anxiety and not that of anxiety at the disorder level. Remember, everyone is anxious from time to time. So anxiety is not a problem in itself. Anxiety only becomes a problem when we’re anxious too frequently and/or dramatically, and being so, and its consequences, cause impairment to a normal lifestyle.

To overcome anxiety disorder, we have to identify and successfully address those behaviors, situations, and circumstances (which we call the underlying factors of anxiety) that cause us to think about life in overly apprehensive ways. Because anxiety disorder isn’t caused by a biological, chemical, or genetic problem, WE have to work to make healthy change, and this work is specific.

People who struggle with anxiety disorder long-term or their entire lives do so because they don’t do the appropriate work, or enough of the right work to alleviate anxiety as a disorder. So it’s not that they CAN’T overcome anxiety as a disorder, but that they DON’T do the right work or sufficiently to successfully address anxiety at the disorder level.

Because anxiety disorder is caused by specific reasons, unless those reasons are identified and successfully addressed, anxiety at the disorder level will remain.

When you treat the cause of the problem — the underlying factors that cause anxiety at the disorder level — you are treating the core of the problem. When you treat the core of the problem, the problem disappears. If you don’t treat the cause, the problem will remain.

Anyone can overcome anxiety disorder when they do the right work.[1][2] But if the right work isn’t done, it’s unrealistic to expect to see a positive change.

For more information about why not everyone overcomes anxiety disorder, see “Is it possible for an individual to never recover from an anxiety disorder?

[1]”CBT can be recommended as a gold standard in the psychotherapeutic treatment of patients with anxiety disorders." - Otte, Christian. "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Anxiety Disorders: Current State of the Evidence." Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. Les Laboratoires Servier, Dec. 2011. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.

[2]DISCLAIMER: Because each body is somewhat chemically unique, and because each person will have a unique mix of symptoms and underlying factors, recovery results may vary. Variances can occur for many reasons, including due to the severity of the condition, the ability of the person to apply the recovery concepts, and the commitment to making behavioral change.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources:

Return to our Anxiety Frequent Questions page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms.