Anxiety 101 – What Triggers Anxiety?
by Amanda Ollier | on September 30, 2012
We have already seen, that the feeling of anxiety or anxiousness, is caused by an influx of chemicals into the bloodstream, but what triggers this reaction?
Anxiety is most often triggered by stress in our lives; external factors over which we feel we have little or no control and the possible consequences of which frighten us. It may however also be caused entirely by us and the things we say to ourselves in our heads – our self talk – if we are constantly telling ourselves to expect the worst.
Let’s have a look at some of the external causes.
Medical Anxiety Triggers
Certain medical conditions can cause anxiety as a side effect of the illness itself – things like emphysema or a blood clot on the lung which inhibit oxygen in the blood and altitude sickness for example. Others, like anaemia, asthma and some heart conditions are also associated with anxiety.
Perhaps the more common link between medical issues and anxiety is actually the stress illness causes – worry about possible outcomes and implications and of course the side effects of medication.
Some researchers have suggested that you are more likely to suffer with anxiety if there is a history of it in your family, but it has yet to be proven that there is in fact a genetic predisposition involved.
I think it is clear to see that if you are brought up in an environment where anxiety plays an important role, you are more likely to develop anxious tendencies, but I would argue that this is nurture rather than nature at work. We pick up most of our beliefs, values, attitudes and habits from those who surround us in our early years.
Environmental Anxiety Triggers
Anxiety of all kinds can also be triggered by external or environmental factors; things that happen in our lives. Common examples might be:
- Work / school related stress
- Trauma from a specific event
- Relationship issues
- Financial worry
Both the use of and withdrawal from illegal drugs and alcohol have been proven to increase the occurrence of anxiety disorders.
Prescription drugs are not exempt from this and things like sleeping pills and some anti depressants for example can give rise to feelings of anxiety, both as side effects during usage and when the course of medication has finished.
Brain Chemistry and Anxiety
Neurotransmitters are chemicals within the brain that communicate messages throughout our bodies. From functions like heartbeat and breathing, to sleep, digestion and mood control, we rely on these chemicals to live. When they are depleted, or not working efficiently we cannot function properly and this can lead to anxiety. These neurotransmitters are easily affected by things like stress, alcohol, poor diet and caffeine for example, all of which can contribute to anxiety.
It soon becomes evident that anxiety has many causes and that most of us are likely to become subject to at least some of them during our lifetime doesn’t it. Fortunately we now live in an age where anxiety is much less taboo and treatments much more readily available. Medical help, counselling, coaching and self help treatments are all available to those who seek them and in a future post I’ll share some of my favourites with you.