Understanding The Science: Can Anxiety Be Treated, Or Will I Always Feel This Way?

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated April 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

While anxiety disorders may not completely go away, they can often be effectively managed with a combination of therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and stress management techniques. Yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, nutritional supplements, and support from loved ones can all be helpful tools for relieving mental health symptoms. Working with a licensed mental health professional is often believed to be the best avenue toward healing, and you can begin by joining an online therapy platform and matching with a therapist.

Seeing no end to your anxiety symptoms?
What is an anxiety disorder?
Most of us experience occasional anxiety that arises due to the demands of everyday life. When feelings like nervousness, worry, and tension become severe or persistent, though, they may indicate the presence of a mental health condition. Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions characterized by unease, fear, or worry. In addition to concerns related to mental health, issues connected to physical health can arise out of an anxiety disorder. The physical symptoms of anxiety include increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, and difficulty concentrating. The symptoms of anxiety can significantly impact an individual’s life as they may interfere with daily activities and cause a person to feel overwhelmed.
Anxiety disorders are generally the most common type of mental health disorder in the United States. It is estimated that anxiety disorders affect around 19% of adults in the U.S. every year. Women are usually more likely to experience anxiety disorders than men, and anxiety disorders often first appear in childhood or adolescence.

Types of anxiety disorders can include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and specific phobias. Symptoms can vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder, but they typically include excessive worry or fear, avoidance of certain situations or objects, difficulty concentrating, and physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate and sweating.

The following are three common anxiety disorders. 
Generalized anxiety disorder
Characterized by intense worry and fear that occur in multiple situations, generalized anxiety disorder can cause irritability, tiredness, sleep problems, and trouble focusing. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, to be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, an individual must experience anxious feelings—as evidenced by at least three of the listed symptoms—most days for a six-month period. 

Panic disorder

If an individual experiences frequent panic attacks, they may be living with an anxiety disorder known as panic disorder. Panic attacks are sudden bouts of severe anxiety marked by often-concerning physical and mental symptoms, including racing heart, rapid breathing, sweating, trembling, and a feeling of losing control. For healthcare professionals to diagnose panic disorder based on the guidelines in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, an individual typically must present with continuing panic attacks and ongoing concern about their recurrence. 

Specific phobia

Specific phobias are fears of certain experiences or objects that are disproportionate to the danger posed by the stimuli. People with these anxiety disorders tend to engage in avoidance activities that can, along with the other symptoms, significantly impact their everyday life. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the symptoms of a specific phobia typically must last for six months. 

What causes anxiety symptoms?
While the exact cause of anxiety is unknown, several risk factors have been identified. One major factor that likely impacts anxiety is genetics. Research suggests that individuals with a family history of anxiety are more likely to develop anxiety disorders themselves

Brain chemistry 

The way our brains process information can also influence how we experience anxiety. For example, people with high levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin tend to have lower levels of anxiety than those with low serotonin levels. It’s generally believed that this could be because serotonin usually helps control mood and emotions, which can help with managing stress and reducing anxiety symptoms. 

Environmental factors 

Environmental factors, such as major life changes or trauma, can also contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder. For example, suppose someone experiences a traumatic event, such as a car accident or physical assault. In that case, they may have persistent feelings of fear or worry associated with the event, which could contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder over time if left untreated. In addition, environmental factors, such as chronic stress from work or school, can also put someone at risk for developing an anxiety disorder due to prolonged exposure to negative feelings and thoughts. 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Medical conditions 

Medical conditions, such as thyroid problems or heart disease, can also be linked to increased anxiety levels in some individuals. These conditions typically cause physical symptoms like rapid heart rate and difficulty breathing, which can trigger feelings of panic and fear in those affected, potentially leading to an increase in their overall level of anxiousness.

Is anxiety curable?
While there may be no cure for anxiety, it tends to be a highly treatable condition, and many people have successfully managed their symptoms with the help of therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and alternative treatments. With the right treatment plan, people can experience a significant decrease in their anxiety levels and lead happier, more fulfilling lives.
Treatment options for anxiety disorders
The diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders usually involve evaluation by a mental health provider or doctor. If a diagnosis is called for based on the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are several effective treatments available. Treatment options may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication, or both.


Most medications used to treat anxiety disorders work by increasing levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin that can help improve mood and reduce feelings of fear or agitation.

Neurotransmitters can be defined as chemical messengers produced naturally in our bodies that carry signals from one brain cell to another. When these chemicals become imbalanced, it can lead to depression or anxiety.

By increasing levels of these neurotransmitters through various actions, anti-anxiety medications may restore balance and reduce anxiety symptoms. 

Never start or stop any form of medication without the guidance of a licensed medical professional.


The ability to express our feelings can be an extremely powerful tool in managing many of the stresses and anxieties of life. Therapists are usually specifically trained to promote a safe, nurturing environment for people with anxiety to explore their emotions and gain insight into their well-being.

Talk therapy has been extensively supported by research as an effective treatment option for anxiety disorders, with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular as one of the most research-backed and effective approaches. The modality a therapist utilizes will often depend on the anxiety disorder present. For example, when treating anxiety related to a specific phobia, a professional may utilize exposure therapy. Other commonly used therapeutic methods for treating anxiety disorders include acceptance and commitment therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy. 

By taking the time to talk through our problems and understand our thoughts and feelings, we may experience improved mental health, potentially leading to a more positive outlook on life. Therapists can help people with anxiety disorders not only address unpleasant feelings but also develop healthy coping strategies and identify potential sources of their symptoms. Therapy can also provide an individual with the opportunity to address other mental health conditions. Common comorbidities with panic disorder, for example, include depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, and other anxiety disorders. 


Holistic approaches

In addition to traditional treatments like medication and psychotherapy, a variety of natural remedies and self-help strategies can be beneficial in managing symptoms associated with anxiety disorders.

These holistic approaches may include yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, nutritional supplements, and relaxation techniques, like deep breathing exercises and guided visualization. 


Yoga is often defined as an ancient practice that originated in India. It typically involves a series of physical postures and breathing exercises. Yoga can be effective in reducing stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and increasing feelings of well-being.

One study found that yoga may be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of social anxiety disorder. 


Meditation can be another stress-reducing technique that is thought to have roots in ancient Eastern practices. Meditation normally involves focusing on a particular object or thought and letting other thoughts come and go without getting attached to them. Research has shown that meditation can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

A study published in JAMA Network Open found that mindfulness meditation could effectively reduce anxiety among employees experiencing high-stress levels. 


Acupuncture is generally seen as a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that usually involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body. Acupuncture is often believed to have been used for centuries to treat various conditions, including anxiety.

Massage therapy 

Massage therapy is another approach that may help manage anxiety. Massage therapy generally uses pressure and strokes on the muscles and tissues to promote relaxation. Research has demonstrated that massage therapy can be a beneficial treatment option for decreasing anxiety symptoms, among other psychiatric symptoms and disorders.

Nutritional supplements 

In addition to eating a balanced diet, taking certain nutritional supplements may help manage anxiety symptoms as well. For instance, research has found that there may be an association between reduced anxiety and omega-3 fatty acids, more fruits and vegetables, zinc, magnesium and selenium, and probiotics, among other nutritional and dietary components.

Please consult your doctor before adding any supplements to your treatment plan.

Seeing no end to your anxiety symptoms?
Benefits of combining online therapy and holistic approaches to anxiety
One potential advantage of integrating traditional therapies with holistic approaches to anxiety management may be that it can empower individuals to tailor a plan that works best for them.

Traditional therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can provide essential insights into the underlying causes of anxiety and develop strategies for coping with anxious thoughts and feelings.

You can attend CBT sessions in person or online, which may be more convenient and comfortable for those with anxiety. Being able to get professional help from the comfort of your own living room often feels far less intimidating than meeting with a therapist face-to-face, which may be why many opt for online therapy.

A strong body of evidence has demonstrated the effectiveness of online therapy for anxiety. Both online therapy and in-person therapy can be valid forms of treatment, so the choice is largely down to your personal preferences and needs.
Holistic approaches, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, or aromatherapy, can then be used in conjunction with these techniques to reduce anxiety symptoms further. Another benefit of combining traditional therapies with holistic treatments may be that it can allow for greater self-awareness and insight into the individual experiencing anxiety.

By exploring both physical and emotional aspects of their experience, an individual can better understand their condition, which can lead to more effective coping strategies over time.

Therapist reviews

"Lindsay has been such a blessing. I am a small business owner who is married to a PTSD vet. I have a lot on my mind and plate and she has helped me with everything that I could ever dream of. My anxiety and stress are becoming more manageable daily and it's because of the amount of attention and care she puts into our sessions. I have told so many people about her and the tips she has given me. I will never be able to repay her for the fresh start she has given me."

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Anxiety can be a normal emotion that may become debilitating if left untreated. However, with the proper knowledge and techniques, there are often practical solutions for calming down and regaining stability. From uncovering its causes to embracing self-care tools like mindfulness and positive self-talk, the journey of tackling your worries can be initiated from within. Working with a licensed therapist in person or through an online therapy platform can also be an excellent way to manage anxiety symptoms.
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