Anxiety: the causes, triggers and myths

Anxiety can be a normal part of life. It’s the body’s defense mechanism, keeping us out of danger and preparing us for necessary action.

For many people, however, anxiety can become overwhelming. It disrupts their daily lives and even makes routine activities impossible. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates 264 million people worldwide have an anxiety disorder. People with anxiety disorders often have intense and persistent worries and fears, which result in panic attacks.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms can begin occurring in childhood and are sometimes the result of treatable medical conditions. Some examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety, social anxiety, specific phobias and separation anxiety. 

What causes anxiety disorders?

Experts have not discovered the exact cause of anxiety disorders. However, researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health, believe brain chemistry, along with genetic and environmental factors may play a role. 

People with depression, irritable bowel syndrome, or a history of substance abuse have a greater risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Other factors that can increase your risk include stress, genetics, personality type, severe trauma and gender. 

Putting together a full picture of your wellness that includes other health conditions, family history and environmental exposure can help you better understand the cause of your anxiety and may help your doctor or therapist treat you more effectively. 

Anxiety triggers

Because anxiety has different effects on different individuals, triggers may be difficult to identify. Sometimes, environmental factors, such as location, sounds, and smells may trigger anxiety, especially in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Some common anxiety triggers include:

  • Health issues and certain medications
  • Social or public events
  • Stress and relationship conflicts
  • Financial matters

Myths and misconceptions

If you or someone you love lives with an anxiety disorder, you may not be able to discern between trustworthy information and misinformation. 
Visit the ADAA website for valuable information like their Myth vs. Reality infographic, as well as links to other informational websites.