Why Did My Anxiety Symptoms Return

Written by Jim Folk
Last updated March 27, 2021

Why Did My Anxiety Symptoms Return?

Complete Question

I was doing really good for a long while and thought I had my anxiety symptoms beat. But for some reason, many of my symptoms have returned. It feels like I'm back at square one again. Why?


We can have a return of anxiety symptoms for three main reasons:

  1. The body hasn’t completed its recovery
  2. Your body has experienced stress from apprehensive behavior or stressful circumstances (or both)
  3. Unaddressed underlying factors

1. Incomplete recovery

Chronic stress (stress-response hyperstimulation) can cause the body to act in odd and erratic ways, including exhibiting symptoms of any type, number, intensity, frequency, duration, and at any time. As long as the body is even slightly hyperstimulated, it can exhibit symptoms.

Even though you might have experienced a complete cessation of symptoms for a while, as long as the body is still somewhat hyperstimulated, you can experience a resurgence of symptoms­ – and even months after you are feeling better.

The body can behave this way as it returns to normal, non-hyperstimulated health. Again, as long as the body is even slightly hyperstimulated, it can act erratically. This should be your expectation.

Experiencing erratic episodes of symptoms is part of the recovery process. Symptoms can occur UNTIL the body has completely returned to normal, non-hyperstimulated health.

During my (Jim Folk) recovery, I experienced many episodes of a resurgence of symptoms as I worked my way back to hyperstimulation-free health. Many of these episodes occurred long after I felt much better.

I experienced these types of episodes, which lasted anywhere from a few moments to a few days, even a couple of years after all of my symptoms disappeared. So again, having episodes of a return of symptoms is a normal part of recovering from hyperstimulation. You can expect these episodes at any time, even long after you've been feeling better.

We explain how to deal with these episodes in the Recovery Support area of our website.

2. Stress

Anxious behavior activates the stress response. The changes associated with the stress response stress the body. Therefore, anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress. We call them anxiety symptoms because anxious behavior is the main source of the stress that causes the body to become stressed and symptomatic.

Chronic anxiety can chronically stress the body. Chronic stress can cause chronic symptoms of stress.

If you’ve had a return of anxiety-like symptoms, they could very well be symptoms of stress if you’ve experienced a stressful situation or circumstance recently.

So, rather than a return of anxiety symptoms, your symptoms could be the consequences of encountering a stressful situation or circumstance recently.

If your symptoms have returned because of a stressful situation or circumstance, faithfully applying healthy stress reduction strategies will eliminate your body’s stress in time, and along with it, its symptoms.

A return to anxious behavior can also stress the body. If you’ve experienced a return of symptoms, addressing those behaviors can remove the stress that has led to a return of symptoms.

3. Unaddressed underlying factors

Unaddressed underlying factors that cause issues with anxiety is one of the most common reasons for rebounds – a return of symptoms or to a struggle with anxiety. If you don’t successfully identify and address the underlying factors at the root of your anxiety issues, it’s generally just a matter of time until the body is chronically stressed and symptomatic again.

If you don’t know why your sensations and symptoms have returned, that generally means that the underlying factors at play are invisible to you.

Identifying and successfully addressing your underlying factors will eliminate invisible stressors, which will prevent rebounds of troublesome stress and symptoms.

If you’ve had a rebound, that could be because you still have some Level Two recovery work to do. Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist can help you overcome this obstacle to lasting success.

If you worked with a therapist in the past, returning to the basics of your recovery and reapplying your recovery skills could be enough to get you headed in the right direction again. You might also want to reconnect with your therapist for a “touch up” session or two, which could also prove helpful.

Completing Level Two recovery work eliminates the likelihood of rebounds.

For more information about some of the pitfalls of incomplete recovery, Recovery Support members can visit the section, “Has your recovery slowed down or stalled, or does it remain incomplete?” in chapter 14.

4. Other causes

There can be other causes of a return of anxiety-like symptoms, such as prescription or over-the-counter medication, recreational drug use, the use of stimulants, sleep deprivation, fatigue, hyper and hypoventilation, low blood sugar, nutritional deficiencies, and dehydration, to name a few. Addressing the cause should eliminate the symptoms.

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 Frequent Questions archive.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including why anxiety symptoms return and what to do.