Your question: Can Buddhism cure my anxiety?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Anxiety can become an experience that negatively affects people’s quality of life. If you have experienced anxiety, you will know that it is an unpleasant phenomenon, evoking exhausting physical and emotional symptoms, and impacting areas of your life such as work, sleep, eating and interpersonal relationships.

Therefore, it is common if you have anxiety to seek different measures to cope with its bothersome symptoms. A common question is whether Buddhism can help people cure their anxiety. This religion is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, popularly known as the Buddha, a spiritual master who taught for more than 50 years.

Although the concepts of psychology that we have today did not exist during Buddha’s time, people at that time also experienced depression, anxiety and other emotional problems. While Buddha did not “cure” their problems, he helped them cope with them through his practices and different ways of looking at life.

Research has shown that Buddhist monks and nuns who have developed meditation practices have a lower level of psychological distress than the average person (1). Religions can help people cope with their emotional problems through practices and rituals that allow them to regulate their emotional state. However, this should not be seen as an absolute and definitive solution.

Yes, Buddhism can help you cope with your anxiety problems from teachings and practices that resemble what psychology has developed to address anxiety, however, you should not rule out the possibility of receiving other types of help, such as a psychologist and psychiatrist if your anxiety symptoms persist and worsen over time.

You have the ability to cope with this problem, and if Buddhist philosophy teaches anything, it is that we are all authors of our own life, we have control over it and we can develop the necessary skills to cope with our problems.

What does it feel like to have anxiety?

Psychology (2) has studied anxiety as a complex phenomenon, which has specific characteristics that affect people in different areas. Some characteristics of anxiety are:

Cognitive symptoms: fear of losing control; fear of death; fear of “going crazy”; fear of negative evaluation by others; frightening thoughts.

Physiological symptoms: increased heart rate, palpitations; shortness of breath, rapid breathing; chest pain or pressure; choking sensation; dizziness.

Affective symptoms: nervous, tense, wound up; frightened; sadness; irritability.

How can Buddhism help you deal with your anxiety?

During his time as a spiritual teacher in the ancient Hindu city of Kushinagar, Buddha taught multiple teachings and reflections that together create what is known as Buddhist philosophy. This way of looking at the world relates to some assumptions that psychology has developed to address anxiety. Some key points of Buddhism that can help you deal with your anxious symptoms are:


Among the Buddha’s teachings, the concept of meditation stands out as a practice that allows us to connect with our emotions, fears and thoughts. The meditation exercises performed in Buddhism have been related to the practice of Mindfulness through studies and have proven to be effective in managing fears and uncontrolled anxiety, seeking full acceptance of the problem and coping through calmness (3).

Control your thoughts

At that time Buddha reflected on one of the most important mantras of cognitive behavioral therapy: thoughts can be our own tormentors and we must learn to control them to prevent this from happening. To a large extent, anxiety is caused by conscious and unconscious thoughts that overwhelm our emotions. Therefore, from Buddhism and psychology, it is necessary to detect these anxious thoughts in order to modify them.


Nirvana is the most important concept in Buddhist philosophy. It is related to a state of spiritual fulfillment that is achieved through meditation and enlightenment, and consists of freedom from suffering. For this, Buddha stated something that is true to this day: one must accept pain as part of life in order to learn to deal with it and heal it. The same is true of anxiety. We cannot completely eliminate anxiety from life as it has indispensable survival functions for us. However, we can learn to control it, and for that, it is necessary to accept it as part of life.

What else can you do?

The concepts of Buddhism may sound very abstract on paper, but in reality, they have an essence that is simple to understand and accessible to most people. If you want to dabble in Buddhism, either because you want to learn how to face your anxiety from a different perspective or because its philosophy of life appeals to you, it is recommended that you go to Buddhist centers in your area and continue to inform yourself through books and videos on how to adopt Buddhism as part of your life.

On the other hand, you need to learn some additional strategies to regulate anxious symptoms and also consider seeing a mental health professional if your symptoms worsen over time, especially if they affect your quality of sleep and eating.

Breathing and relaxation

Inhale through your nose for three seconds, exhale through your mouth for another three seconds. This while you close your eyes and feel how slowly the tension in your body decreases. You can apply this exercise for at least 10 minutes a day at different times, and just after experiencing an episode of anxiety.

Physical exercise

Physical activity is necessary because it allows you to train both your body and your mind. Whether in a gym, playing a sport or from the comfort of your home, physical exercise helps you release hormones and neurotransmitters related to happiness, allows you to feel more focused and helps you drain negative emotions.

Emotional journaling

Journaling about your experience with anxiety allows you to express your emotions in a private space and identify patterns that may be causing your anxiety attacks. In this journal you will write during the day each time you experience anxiety, indicating the related facts: what was happening at the time, who you were with, and what you felt. This will allow you to determine if, for example, your anxiety occurs more frequently at work, and therefore, you need to reduce the pressures and workloads to reduce your anxiety.

In my experience…

Religions can be emotionally supportive for people going through difficult situations. In particular, Buddhism allows for many fascinating teachings that will help you see life in a more fulfilling and healing way. You can convert to Buddhism if you wish, regardless of your motives, we all have the right to choose the religion or non-religion that best suits us. However, you must remember that it is not a magic bullet, and dealing with anxiety is a task that requires consistency and strength.

I believe you have the ability to improve and heal these feelings of discomfort you are experiencing now. The fact that you are seeking professional help through this medium proves it to me, and I applaud you for making that decision and being on track to improve your mental health and overall, your physical health.

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