Very few people can say they are getting through life without feeling on edge at some point or another. The feeling of fear or worrying about something or someone is universal. But sometimes, people feel anxiety consistently for extremely long periods of time, which can lead to the question: Does anxiety go away?
Why Do I Feel Anxious?
Every person’s sense of anxiety is unique to their circumstances. However, most forms of anxiety are based around a specific cause. Whether it’s an upcoming event that worries you, fear of something that might happen, or obsessing over something that has already happened, anxiety is a broad emotion that covers a variety of stressful situations.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) explains that anxiety is a stress response that plays a role in protecting people and alerting them to things that need attention. However, anxiety that is out of proportion to a situation or hinders someone’s ability to function could indicate an anxiety disorder.
The anxious feelings in stressful scenarios are not exactly the same as having an anxiety disorder. Normal anxiety usually goes away once you’ve dealt with the cause. But people whose fears or worries intensify to the point that they are intrusive to their daily life may have an anxiety disorder, especially if they struggle to move forward because of it.
How Do I Know if I Have an Anxiety Disorder?
While almost everyone feels anxious at some point in their lives, approximately 19% of adults in the US experience some form of anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). General anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders involve a much more persistent form of anxiety than just feeling anxious.
The question of “Does anxiety go away?” is a common one in people with anxiety disorders. Many struggle with the question of how to describe anxiety that they experience, because rather than being anxious about a specific thing, they feel a generalized sense of anxiety all the time, or extremely strong feelings of anxiety about specific triggers.
The symptoms of an anxiety disorder occur frequently, sometimes without any trigger at all. If there is a noticeable trigger, the anxiety may still last much longer than the scenario that sparked the feelings. In other words, you feel anxious long after you logically should.
Anxiety disorders can make it hard for people to maintain healthy relationships or perform well in areas of their lives, such as at school or work. Anxiety and control issues often go hand in hand, as many people make impulsive decisions in order to try and feel some relief from the anxiety they experience, such as turning to drug use or other unhealthy behaviors as a way of self-medicating.
What Are the Forms of Anxiety Disorders?
There are many different forms of anxiety disorder, each with their own specific types and causes of anxiety. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the most common forms of anxiety. It’s identified by unusually high levels of apprehension or worry about everyday issues like work, health, relationships, or school.
A person suffering from GAD has no reason to worry about these issues, but they feel an oppressive sense of anxiety about them regardless. The symptoms of GAD include:
- Poor concentration
- Excessive muscle tensions
- Powerful feelings of worry
- Poor sleep, including trouble falling asleep and staying asleep
People with GAD may find themselves wondering “Does anxiety go away?” due to experiencing long periods of generalized anxiety, but different anxiety disorders can cause different kinds of anxiety. Panic disorder is another common anxiety disorder, one that comes and goes more frequently than GAD.
People with panic disorder have frequent panic attacks, episodes of intense feelings of fear and worry that can last for just minutes up to hours. A person experiencing a panic attack feels like they’re in fear of their life, and experiences serious physical symptoms, such as shaking, racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, and feelings of impending doom.
Causes of Anxiety Disorders
The exact causes of anxiety disorders are unknown. According to the NIMH, researchers believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors play the largest role. Though the exact causes of anxiety disorders aren’t clear, experts have identified risk factors.
For example, you’re more likely to develop an anxiety disorder if you have depression, irritable bowel syndrome, or a history of substance abuse. Stress also plays a large role, and sustained periods of stress may contribute to the development of anxiety disorders. The link between anxiety and mental health is unclear, but having clearly defined coping mechanisms for dealing with anxiety seems to lower the chances of developing an anxiety disorder.
If you’re asking yourself “Does anxiety go away,” you may be thinking that you have an anxiety disorder. If you constantly feel anxious about different things, or have anxiety around a specific trigger that lasts long after it should naturally go away, it’s possible you may be one of the nearly one in five Americans who have an anxiety disorder. Thankfully, there’s hope.
Does Anxiety Go Away?
Research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is very effective in treating anxiety disorders and is associated with improved quality of life. Like other mental health issues, the first step is talking with a mental health professional. With proper medical treatment, anxiety disorders are highly manageable.
But finding the right anxiety support can be challenging. At Georgetown Behavioral Hospital, our staff are well-versed in helping support those with anxiety disorder. Our inpatient adult mental health program is designed to help pinpoint the cause of your anxiety and work with you to develop coping mechanisms and healthy behaviors to overcome it.
We also understand that anxiety disorders are often accompanied by substance abuse, which is why we offer our dual diagnosis program. In this way, our treatment team can address any potential co-occurring substance use disorders that may accompany your anxiety.
An attack usually lasts from 5 to 20 minutes. But it may last even longer, up to a few hours. If these attacks happen very often, you may have a panic disorder.
Typical anxiety can last for days, or at least until you’ve dealt with whatever is making you anxious, but anxiety disorders can persist for months or years without relief. Often, the only way to control anxiety is through professional treatment.
Fear is an emotional response to perceived danger, but anxiety is a persistent feeling of worry and discomfort about things that don’t present any kind of danger. Anxiety about important events like job interviews or dates are fairly common. But anxiety can also be about harmless things, or even nothing at all.