It is hard to specifically say what causes anxiety as it can be different for everyone and there are probably several factors involved. Current research is looking into brain chemistry and the areas of the brain that control the fear response (amygdala), however, a combination of genetic and environmental factors most likely cause anxiety.
Everyone gets anxious at times, this is completely normal, and anyone could go on to have an ongoing anxiety disorder if left untreated. Certain events can make some of us more anxious than others, and the triggers can be different for everyone.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is defined as a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues simultaneously. These intense feelings of anxiety and fear may interfere with daily life and be difficult to control. It is common for someone struggling with GAD to feel overwhelmed and anxious the majority of the time, and they may often find it challenging to recall the last time they actually felt calm or relaxed.
Often, someone struggling with GAD will have multiple anxious thoughts and as soon as one has been resolved, another issue will tend to appear, so there is limited opportunity to feel in control of the situation. Anxiety disorders may involve repeated episodes of intense anxiety and fear that result in a panic attack.
Anxiety disorders will often manifest in our teenage years, but they can also start in adulthood. Factors that cause anxiety disorders may include, but are not limited to, the following:
having a parent or close relative with anxiety
past or current childhood experiences or trauma
past or current life events or trauma
drugs and alcohol misuse
How do parents or close relatives with anxiety impact other family members?
Research shows that having a close relative with anxiety may increase someone’s chances of experiencing anxiety problems, but there is not enough conclusive evidence to show if this is the result of shared genetic factors that make us more vulnerable, or because of learnt behaviours and thinking from our parents and other family members as we grow up.
How do past or current childhood experiences impact us?
Difficult experiences in childhood or adolescence are a common trigger for anxiety problems. Children who endured physical or emotional abuse or trauma, or witnessed traumatic events, are at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder at some point in life. Trauma may also include neglect, the loss of a parent, being bullied or socially excluded.
How do past or current life events or trauma impact us?
Adults who have had, or are currently experiencing, a prolonged stressful or traumatic event can also develop anxiety disorders.
A big event, or even a buildup of smaller stressful events, may trigger an anxiety disorder. This could include feeling generally overwhelmed or out of control, excessive change or uncertainty such as divorce or a house move, a family bereavement, money or housing worries, being out of work or having study/work related stress.
How do health problems impact us?
Physical health problems may lead to generalised anxiety disorder or health anxiety disorder especially if they are ongoing or life-threatening. Other mental health problems such as depression may also lead to anxiety.
How do drugs and alcohol impact us?
Anxiety can sometimes be a side effect of using drugs and alcohol as they can change levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Furthermore, drug or alcohol withdrawal can also cause or worsen anxiety.
The short term relief these substances may provide is usually temporary and are likely to make an anxiety disorder worse in the long run.
If anxiety is something you or your loved ones struggle with regularly, then please get in touch to discuss how I can help you. You can book a FREE 45 minute discovery call here