Anxiety Disorder Recovery

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated May 20, 2021

With over 30 years of helping people successfully overcome anxiety disorder and it signs and symptoms, we’ve identified Two Levels of anxiety disorder recovery. Working through and attaining success at each level can eliminate anxiety disorder and its symptoms.

They are based on the chain of events that lead to anxiety disorder:

Chain Of Events That Leads To Anxiety Disorder

1. Anxiety: Anxiety is caused by apprehensive behavior.

2. Stress: Anxiety stresses the body.

3. Symptoms: Stress can cause the body to exhibit symptoms.

4. Anxiety Disorder: Anxiety disorder occurs when anxiety and its symptoms interfere with a normal lifestyle.

For more information about each:

Two Main Aspects Of Anxiety Disorder

Based on this chain of events, there are two main aspects of anxiety disorder:

1. The cause of anxiety disorder: anxiety’s underlying factors - the unhealthy behaviors (thoughts and actions), situations, and circumstances that motivate unhealthy apprehensive behavior.

2. The consequences of anxiety disorder: the sensations and symptoms of chronic stress (stress-response hyperstimulation), and unhealthy behaviors associated with experiencing anxiety disorder.

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Two Levels Of Anxiety Disorder Recovery

To eliminate anxiety disorder, two levels of recovery are required:

Level One recovery:

Becoming unafraid of anxiety and its symptoms, and eliminating anxiety’s symptoms.

Most people begin their search for help because of their bothersome symptoms. Once they have discovered that their symptoms are caused by anxiety, they look for ways to alleviate them.

So, the first stage of recovery involves addressing this immediate need: understanding anxiety so that you can become unafraid of it and working to alleviate anxiety’s symptoms.

Anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress. That’s because every time we behave apprehensively, the body produces a stress response, also known as the fight or flight response.

For more information about the stress response and the many physiological, psychological, and emotional changes it causes, visit our “stress response” article.

The degree of stress response is directly proportional to the degree of apprehensive behavior. For instance, the more dramatic the apprehensive behavior, the higher the degree of stress response. Furthermore, the more frequent the apprehensive behavior, the more frequent the stress responses.

Too frequent stress responses can cause the body to become chronically stressed (stress-response hyperstimulated). A body that becomes chronically stressed can exhibit symptoms of chronic stress.

We call them anxiety symptoms because overly apprehensive behavior is the main source of the stress that causes the body to become chronically stressed and symptomatic.

For more information about hyperstimulation and how it can affect the body, visit our “hyperstimulation” article.

Since both apprehensive behavior and stress can cause stress symptoms, three actions are required to eliminate them:

1. Learn about anxiety and stress so that you can become unafraid of them and their symptoms

Many of those who develop anxiety disorder become afraid of their condition and its symptoms. Reducing these fears through understanding anxiety and stress reduces stress, and a reduction in stress allows the body to recover and eliminate symptoms.

2. Reduce stress

Since anxiety symptoms are caused by chronic stress, eliminating the body’s unhealthy stress will eliminate symptoms of stress. Diligently working at reducing your body’s stress and giving your body sufficient time to recover will eliminate anxiety- and stress-caused symptoms. When you eliminate hyperstimulation, which is the cause of your symptoms, you’ll eliminate your symptoms, as well.

3. Faithfully practice your recovery strategies until your body returns to normal, non-hyperstimulated health:

Eliminating your body’s overly stressed state will allow your body to return to normal, non-hyperstimulated health…in time.

Faithfully practicing the physiological recovery strategies we mention in Chapter 4 in the Recovery Support area, and for a sufficient period, will give your body the opportunity to recover from the adverse effects of hyperstimulation. Once the body has recovered, it stops exhibiting symptoms.

Eliminating anxiety- and stress-caused symptoms needn’t be more complicated than that: ELIMINATE YOUR BODY’S UNHEALTHY STRESS AND YOUR BODY WILL STOP EXHIBITING SYMPTOMS OF UNHEALTHY STRESS.

Recovery from hyperstimulation and its symptoms only occurs when you eliminate your body’s chronic stress. Since the beneficial effects of faithfully practicing your recovery strategies are cumulative, success comes through faithful application and sufficient time.

Level One Recovery involves learning about anxiety and stress, how they affect the body, that anxiety and its symptoms are NOT monsters or uncontrollable diseases that trap you, that anxiety symptoms AREN’T harbingers of a more serious medical or mental illness, and that you don’t have to be afraid of anxiety or its symptoms. By doing the right work, you’ll eliminate them in time.

Becoming unafraid of anxiety and its symptoms is an important step toward recovery.

Level one recovery can be accomplished with the help of good self-help materials and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist. While a self-help only approach can produce successful results, working with a therapist can accelerate this process and make Level One recovery more complete.

However, Level One recovery generally provides only limited results. Unless the cause of the problem is addressed, the problem and its symptoms have the potential to remain.

Yes, Level One recovery is an important part of the recovery process, but it’s only the first step of the process that leads to lasting success. It’s not the entire process.

Many self-help programs focus solely on this level of recovery. But again, Level One recovery provides limited and often temporary results. It’s not the complete solution.

To attain complete and lasting results, we need to address the cause of the problem and not just the problem’s symptoms.

It’s also important to note that if the cause of the problem isn’t addressed, it can complicate and even prevent Level One recovery, since unaddressed underlying factors can interfere with stress reduction and symptom relief.

To successfully overcome anxiety disorder and its symptoms, Level Two recovery work is required.

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Level Two recovery:

Identifying and successfully addressing the underlying factors of anxiety—the unhealthy behaviors (thoughts and actions), situations, and circumstances that cause issues with anxiety.

While Level One recovery addresses the consequences and complications of anxiety disorder, which is an important step, Level Two recovery addresses the CAUSE of anxiety disorder.

Identifying and successfully addressing the cause of anxiety disorder –  underlying factors that motivate issues with anxiety – eliminates anxiety as a disorder. When you eliminate the cause of the problem, you eliminate the problem and its symptoms.

Until Level Two recovery work is completed, there is a high likelihood you will remain vulnerable to episodes of high anxiety and a return of symptoms.

For example, being sensitive to health and medical matters is a common core fear among anxiety disorder sufferers. Being anxious about health and medical matters is a common underlying factor of anxiety disorder.

If a person attains Level One recovery only – becomes unafraid of his anxiety symptoms – but hasn’t addressed his core fear of health and medical matters, it’s just a matter of time until an unknown ache or pain has him worried again. This worry can easily spike stress and bring a return of symptoms.

Relating to others in unhealthy ways is another common underlying factor of anxiety. For example, those who have unhealthy relationship styles are often in unhealthy relationships. These unhealthy relationships can keep stress elevated. While attaining Level One recovery can help you become unafraid of your anxiety symptoms, the stress coming from an unhealthy relationship could cause your anxiety symptoms to persist or escalate even though you are no longer afraid of your anxiety symptoms. In this example, your anxiety and symptom-free success would be dependent on how tumultuous your relationship is.

These are just a couple of examples of how unresolved underlying factors can continue to cause anxiety and its symptoms.

Unresolved underlying factors are often the cause of episodes of anxiety that come and go, and for rebounds into anxiety disorder to occur.

Unless the underlying factors are successfully addressed, our success is at the mercy of our circumstances. If things are going well, we generally feel better. But the moment challenges come our way, we feel worse.

If lasting recovery is desired, you need to accomplish both levels of recovery. Attaining both levels of anxiety disorder recovery ensures you’ve addressed the root causes of problematic anxiety, which eliminates it and its symptoms.

When I (Jim Folk) look back at my recovery, and over the many years I’ve maintained that success, it’s because I addressed my underlying factors. Sure, I experienced a degree of success with Level One recovery only, but that would have only taken me so far. Accomplishing Level Two recovery is what finally set me free from anxiety disorder for good.

That doesn’t mean I’ve completed my work. I had so many underlying factors I’m sure I’ll be doing this work until the day I die. But I’m fine with that. I enjoy life-long learning and improvement.

Even so, the Level One and Level Two recovery work I did was enough to set me free from anxiety disorder once and for all. I wouldn’t have been able to sustain my normal, anxiety disorder-free health all these years had I not done that work.

I also see this in many of the therapy clients we’ve worked with over the years. Those who stop therapy once they’ve reached Level One recovery often continue to struggle off and on until they address Level Two recovery. But once Level Two recovery had been addressed, anxiety as a disorder disappeared.

Moreover, Level Two recovery work is often required to attain Level One recovery success. For instance, many anxiety disorder sufferers fear their symptoms. This fear fuels their anxiety and stress, which causes their symptoms to persist in spite of their knowledge about anxiety symptoms and how to stop them.

Even though they understand they shouldn’t fear their symptoms if success is desired, they do because of unidentified and unaddressed Level Two recovery concepts. Here again, if you want to experience the success many of us have, Level Two recovery work is required. Once that work is done, however, there is no reason for continued struggle.

Attaining Level One and Level Two recovery success doesn’t mean we’ll never be anxious again. That’s unrealistic. Everyone is anxious from time to time. The difference is that we never struggle with anxiety as a disorder again. We experience normal anxiety rather than abnormal anxiety, and that makes a world of difference. The skills we learn during Level Two recovery benefit us for the rest of our lives.

There are also many other benefits that Level Two recovery success brings. When I say a return to normal health, I mean that our physical health returns to normal, but our psychological and emotional health are greatly improved and enhanced. Not only did I overcome my anxiety disorder issues and symptoms but I also learned to live life more freely, peacefully, and authentically. These benefits in themselves were well worth the effort and time I spent working through Level Two recovery.

Level One recovery addresses the consequences of anxiety disorder – stress-response hyperstimulation and its sensations and symptoms.

Level Two recovery address the cause of anxiety disorder – the underlying factors that motivate overly apprehensive behavior.

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If you want to attain and maintain normal, anxiety disorder-free health, I recommend working through both levels of recovery. Once completed, there is no reason to return to a struggle with anxiety or its symptoms. Attaining both levels of recovery is the best way to ensure lasting freedom from anxiety disorder.

NOTE: We’ve identified over 100 common underlying factors that cause issues with problematic anxiety. One factor is enough to cause havoc in a person’s life never mind having multiples of them, which is almost always the case. Unless a person is trained to identify AND successfully address the underlying factors that cause issues with anxiety disorder, they generally continue to cause problems UNTIL they are addressed. This is why lasting recovery requires both levels of recovery work. Unfortunately, until the underlying factors of problematic anxiety are addressed, it’s unrealistic to expect to attain lasting anxiety disorder-free health.

Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to attain Level One and Level Two recovery success.

For more information:

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our Anxiety Therapy page. Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including anxiety disorder recovery.