Why Do Some People Have Anxiety Disorder Their Entire Lives

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated May 16, 2021

Question:

If any one can overcome anxiety disorder, why do some people have anxiety disorder long-term or their entire lives?

Answer:

Anxiety occurs when we behave in an apprehensive manner (fearful that something bad or unpleasant will happen). Anxiety disorder occurs when our overly apprehensive behavior interferes 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 a genetic predisposition. Anxiety disorder is caused by unhealthy behavior - the ways we think and act in overly apprehensive, and therefore, anxious ways.

Apprehensive can be defined as: anxious, worried, uneasy, concerned, nervous, agitated, afraid, scared, frightened, fearful.

To eliminate anxiety disorder, we need 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 or dramatically, and the consequences cause impairment to a normal lifestyle.

To overcome anxiety disorder, we have to identify and successfully address the underlying factors that cause issues with problematic anxiety.

Anxiety’s underlying factors can be defined as: those behaviors, situations, and circumstances that motivate overly anxious behavior.

Visit our “Underlying factors that cause apprehensive behavior” article for more information.

Because anxiety disorder isn’t caused by a biological, chemical, or genetic problem, WE have to work to make healthy behavioral change if we want to overcome anxiety disorder.

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.

It’s not that anxiety disorder can’t be overcome but that the right work isn’t done, or done sufficiently to eliminate 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.

Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to overcome anxiety disorder.[1][2]

For more information, visit our “Two Levels Of Anxiety Disorder Recovery” article.

When you eliminate the cause of the problem — the underlying factors that cause anxiety disorder — you eliminate the problem and its symptoms. If you don’t eliminate the cause, the problem and its symptoms will remain.

Anyone can overcome anxiety disorder when they do the right work.[3][4] But if the right work isn’t done, it’s unrealistic to expect to eliminate issues with problematic anxiety.

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

NOTE: There are some medical and mental health conditions, as well as medications, that create and aggravate issues with anxiety. These, however, comprise a very small minority of cases compared to the whole.

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 Frequently Asked Questions page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including Why Do Some People Have Anxiety Disorder Their Entire Lives?

References

1. Hofmann, Stefan G., et al. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3584580/.

2. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017, jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2654783.

3. 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.

4. There are some medical and mental health conditions that can cause and aggravate issues with anxiety. Therefore, anxiety disorder won’t be resolved until these underlying conditions are successfully addressed. Fortunately, these conditions are rare and not normative for most anxiety disorders.