When you interact with the number anxiety disorders that I do, you have the opportunity to see patterns emerge in a crowd.  Over years of doing this thing I do, and interacting with the large number of people that I have, I can see that when it comes to recovery from an anxiety disorder, there are clear “stages” of recovery that most people progress through.  None of these are absolutely set in stone, but the odds are high that you will identify with one of these stages.

Stage 1: I will do anything I can to stop panic and anxiety from appearing. I don’t want to, but I find myself avoiding more and more things. Nothing works for me. I cope by seeking reassurance and comfort. I want to get better but I feel lost and helpless.
Stage 2: Facing the fear is the way out? I don’t think so. That sounds ridiculous to me. Anyone that says that clearly never experienced real anxiety or panic. I want to get better, but not like this. My anxiety isn’t like that.
Stage 3: Fine.  I’m willing to try it, but my belief is pretty low because I’ve tried so many things before this. I’ll move in that direction, but I am going to question EVERY step and if I feel anxiety or panic I may decide that I’m bailing out.  Stage 3 is characterized by one word … fragility.  Stage three is full of questioning and doubting and the belief that it will all fall apart at any moment.
Stage 4: I’m questioning less.  I’m seeing progress that seems a bit more durable.  Progress is sometimes fast, and sometimes slow, but I can see the progress nonetheless.  The thing I am still terrified of is a “setback”.  I know this is working, but I still worry that there’s a chance that I can go backward to square one again if I feel some things that I don’t want to feel.  I see “setbacks” as disaster rather than opportunities to learn more lessons.
Stage 5: Almost completely recovered now.  I’m no longer afraid of a “setback”.  I’m doing things that used to totally drive me into major panic, and I’m not really afraid anymore. I can feel like I have my mojo back. I feel more sure of myself now. I know I’m not done, but I also know I’m going to get this job done! I may feel anxiety or even panic now and then, but I’m not afraid of it, and I generally don’t care.  It’s over and I move on.  I know the difference between being anxious and having an anxiety disorder.
Stage 6: Fully recovered. I’m so over this, I’ve learned my lessons and moved on.  Now I teach the lessons to others.  
Please note that there is almost no difference between stage 5 and 6.  Some people feel the call to teach or help.  Some do not.  There is no right or wrong in this.  If simply leaving it all behind is your path in life, then take it!  If you are compelled to help others solve the problem that you’ve learned to solve, that’s great too.  Some teach, some do not, but ALL are helpers in some way.  Even if you end your journey and walk away from the topic, the sharing you did while on the recoveryh path is a light that others can follow.  Everyone contributes in some way.
Remember that EVERYBODY starts at stage 1.  I will spare you the cliches about taking first step, but they all do apply.  No matter where you are along the path to recovery, you can complete the journey.  I know you can.

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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)






Founder and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. Graduate student and therapist-in-training. Author and educator on the topic of anxiety disorders and anxiety recovery. Former anxious and depressed person.