Can anxiety be cured? Can I live without anxiety?

by | Apr 13, 2021

People who suffer from anxiety, or related disorders, often wonder if they will be able to be totally cured or be able to live without anxiety. It is natural that these types of concerns arise, as anyone who suffers from a physical or mental pathology wants to recover satisfactorily and wants to know if it is possible.

Before getting into the subject and answering the questions that gave this article its title, we will explore some official figures regarding anxiety and how it behaves in the world.

According to recent figures from the WHO (2017), more than 260 million people in the world suffer from anxiety, around 15% more than the previous decade.

If we analyze this data we will realize that anxiety is a response by the organism that is activated more and more frequently. This makes us think that there are certain external factors that could be triggering the anxiety response in us more easily.

Bad eating habits, excessive work stress, financial stress, lack of sleep, and other factors are noticeably affecting millions of people every day. We could conclude that by improving lifestyle and thinking patterns, anxiety levels could also be lowered.

Nevertheless, each person with anxious episodes and/or anxiety disorders is a unique case, that must be treated considering its specificities, medical and family history, and individual and social situation. Let’s see, then, what the factors are that could predispose a person to suffer from anxiety, beyond the normal levels.

Factors that trigger anxiety:

There are three categories: predisposing factors, triggers, and maintenance. Let’s detail each one of them to understand later how to overcome anxiety and live a life free from it.

Predisposing factors:

There may be some biological vulnerability in patients suffering from anxiety and its associated disorders. Here we include the biological or genetic variables that predispose people to suffer from anxiety. Among them we can mention: hereditary (family members with a history of anxiety), personality (sensitivity to stress), learned behaviors (inability to face difficult situations). Work on the prevention of anxiety can be based on these factors.

Triggering factors:

These are impactful events or situations that trigger anxiety, that is, the alert response. When the alarm systems of the organism are activated, a series of physiological and behavioral responses are generated, which, if they get out of control, could result in the person suffering from anxiety disorder. In this case, the activators are real, and we say real because the threat that the person with anxiety feels may not actually be one, like when we anticipate something that has not happened (excessive worry).

The triggers can be situations such as: an interview for a new job, the loss of a job, serious illness of a loved one, lack of sleep, poor diet, among others. It can also be more serious events such as sexual abuse, a car accident, or a hostage situation. All of these can trigger an anxiety disorder.

Maintenance Factors:

Maintenance factors are those that contribute to maintaining the disorder once it appears. Generally, they occur when the hereditary factors have not been prevented and those of activation have not been overcome, so that the symptoms of anxiety remain over time.

It is no longer a type of anxiety by known or specific causes but of repeated anxious episodes without an apparent reason. Although there is no specific factor that has unleashed them, there is an accumulation of day-to-day events, even years, that generate the framework. In these cases, the treatment can be more intense and include specific medication for anxiety.

These factors do not usually occur in isolation; generally, the person presents a combination of them. As we have already expressed in other articles, there is no list of fixed causes from which we can suffer from anxiety. Each case can be different and must be treated individually. 

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Can anxiety be cured?

There is a lot of clinical evidence that shows encouraging results in this regard. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), as well as drug treatments have proven effective in improving unhealthy anxiety and in some cases overcoming it completely.

Medication helps because it treats the symptoms, providing short-term relief and allowing the patient to function better in their daily activities, find peace of mind, and thus dedicate themselves to treating their problem in a more profound way with CBT.

It is recommended that CBT be combined with drug treatment. Treatment with just medication is not advisable, since it would not be solving the root of the problem and when it is no longer taken it can cause the symptoms to easily reappear.

Today, there are well-structured programs without medication, which not only use CBT but a whole series of techniques and resources to overcome unhealthy anxiety. These types of programs are increasingly supported by scientific societies around the world as a complement to or initial treatment for anxiety.

For its part, CBT has demonstrated to be effective and this is because it works in changing the cognitive mental structures that make a person prone to suffer from anxiety disorders. The different meanings that the patient gives to reality and the events that happen to them are identified. In this way, it deals with the thoughts that are associated with the emotions and generates behaviors or behavioral responses.

The relationship between these three components is very close; in fact, it can be said that they are inseparable, since negative thoughts generate negative emotions that in time lead to negative behavior. This cycle repeats itself and each time it strengthens the beliefs that facilitate the appearance of the anxiety.

It is necessary to remember that we not only store information through the experiences we live, but also through how we interpret them. It is in the interpretation where Cognitive Behavioral Therapy does its work.

CBT intervention occurs in the three components and it seeks to break the cycle to readjust cognition and thereby, promote emotional and behavioral change. This type of therapy helps the anxious person to deal with stressful situations in a more positive way and to understand that anxiety at normal levels is healthy.

Can I live without anxiety?

No matter how much someone hopes to achieve this goal, it will never happen, but that is not a problem at all. It is important to understand that anxiety is a normal mechanism of our nervous system. If we never have an anxious response, we cannot protect ourselves from potentially or actually dangerous situations.

It is normal for our body to react to external or internal threats otherwise we would be in serious trouble. Anxiety allows us to defend ourselves, to run, to attack or to flee when confronted by a wild animal, when facing aggression of another person or when we need to protect ourselves from a natural catastrophe or an accident. We could say that anxiety often keeps us alive in this world and it is not a good idea to get rid of it completely.

Setting the goal of living without anxiety is at the very least stressful and not advisable. However, it is possible to live with it in such a way that it does not prevent us from developing our lives normally. We can maintain normal levels of anxiety and stress that allow us to achieve our personal goals, be happy, and be at peace. This is the true goal of any treatment that seeks to heal out-of-control anxiety.

Therefore, we recommend not to set a goal of living without anxiety, but to learn to accept it and manage it so that we can walk through life with satisfaction. We advise perceiving it as a natural and positive mechanism that helps us to face multiple situations successfully.

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