Putting a Spotlight on the Causes of Anxiety Disorders

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What Exactly Causes an Anxiety Disorder to Develop?

There are several factors involved in developing an anxiety disorder. No one factor results in a disorder.

Some contributing causes of anxiety disorders are:

  • Biological factors
  • Stress overload or environmental factors
  • Childhood environment
  • Thought patterns
  • Personality
  • Genetics

Biological Factors

Our bodies have natural reactors that kick in when we are scared or feel the need to protect ourselves. This is often referred to as the “fight or flight response”.

A person who has a problem with anxiety tends to overreact because this system just never seems to shut down. This makes them seem very highly strung, or a worrywart of the highest degree.

Experts are sure there is some connection between anxiety disorders and a chemical imbalance in the brain, but they do not know whether the chemical imbalance comes before the stressful situation, or after. Does the overreaction to stress cause a chemical imbalance, or does a chemical imbalance cause the overreaction to stress that leads to the anxiety?

Stressful Overload or Environmental Factors

There are many types of stress and stressful environmental factors that are known causes of anxiety disorders. For example:

  • Working too many hours
  • Are surrounded by negative people
  • Have health problems
  • If you have suffered a trauma in your life, abuse or a recent loss of a loved one

In no way does this mean you will always develop an anxiety disorder as a result of these types of stresses, but they can be a factor.

Childhood Environment

How you grow as a child can affect you as an adult. If you did not feel secure as a child, it could cause you to feel anxious as an adult. If you had a parent who, although meaning well, was anxious all the time, you may have developed the same attributes.

We learn from others as children, but this is not a life sentence. As adults, one has more say so about how they wish to think. Again, these factors can contribute to the causes of anxiety disorders, but this does not mean you will always suffer an anxiety disorder as a result.

Thought Patterns

You have often heard the phrase, “you are what you think". With regards to anxiety, this is most definitely is true. If you find yourself constantly thinking negatively, or dwelling on scary things, you might wake up one day with a full blown disorder.

Some typical thought patterns that can contribute to anxiety are:

  • Victim thinking or talk
  • What if this or that happens?
  • I have to be perfect–or perfectionism
  • All or nothing thoughts
  • I can’t

Just try to feel anxious when talking super positive about a situation or another person. You may feel excited, but you will not be able to conjure up anxiety. Some people refuse to watch the news because it causes them to dwell on negative things and they feel themselves slipping towards unhealthy anxiety.


Source: Authors understanding of Anxiety from personal experience

University of Maryland Medical Center: https://www.umm.edu/mentalhealth/ancauses.htm

Medicine.net: https://www.medicinenet.com/anxiety/article.htm

National Institute of Anxiety and Stress Inc. https://www.conqueranxiety.com/what-causes-an-anxiety-disorder.asp

This post is part of the series: Does Anxiety, Panic or Phobias Have a Hold on You?

Anxiety, Panic and Phobias can be very detrimental to a life. It is important to understand what the symptoms are, what causes them in the first place and options for how to deal with them once you have them. There is hope, and you can be free!

  1. Spotlight on the Causes of Anxiety Disorders
  2. Do I Have a Phobia?