Causes of Anxiety and Anxiety Disorder

The causes of Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders can be very different for each of the people who develop an anxiety problem and what kind of problem they develop.

They do not spring just from one cause; there are many different variables that influence or trigger the problem itself.

Sometimes it is impossible to know which factors are responsible for any person’s anxiety problem.


There are three main influences that can cause Anxiety and/or Anxiety Disorders:

Biological Influences

Inheriting Anxiety

That is basically when you inherit the tendency to be anxious or tense.

Anxiety disorders run in families. Our genetic makeup seems to influence the transmission of anxiety-based problems from one generation tot he next.

Brain Chemistry

The brain is like a chemical factory. Information is transmitted from one nerve cell to the next by chemical messengers called neurotrasmitters.

The effects of this process on our body depend on the type of neurotransmitter released, the amount that is produced, the amount that is reabsorbed, the sensitivity of the receptors, and the location of the brain where this process is occurring.

Examples of neurotransmitters that are known to play a role in anxiety disorders include:

  • Serotonin
  • Norepinephrine
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)

Brain Activity

There are areas in our brain that are more or less active in some anxiety disorders, but it is hard to tell if this is a cause for the anxiety or mental disorder or it is an effect of the same.

Psychological Influences

Learning and Experiences

We are all shaped by our histories. We “create” our histories thus triggering our Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders by learning and experiencing. And we can do this in three ways:

  1. Direct experience (when we learn to fear an object or situation through some sort of direct negative or traumatic experience).
  2. Observation ( when we learn to fear a situation by watching somebody else have a negative experience or behave fearfully in a situation).
  3. Information or instruction (when we learn to fear a situation via material you encounter through conversations, reading, watching television, and other sources of information).

Although these three pathways explain the occurrence of fear in some cases, they don’t fully explain the relationship between learning and fear. So, although these pathways may contribute to the development of fears and anxieties, they don’t really explain why some people develop significant fears following these experiences and others don’t.

Thinking and Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are associated with negative patterns of thinking, and having negative thoughts can contribute to anxiety and fear.

Behavior and Anxiety

How people behave in response to their anxiety has a big effect on whether they manage to overcome it or not.

Two types of behavior seem to be the most problematic:

  1. Avoidance. It is natural to want to avoid a situation that triggers anxiety or fear, but avoidance helps keep the anxiety alive over time. Although avoidance helps you keep your anxiety under control in the short term, it has the exact opposite effect over the long term.
  2. Safety Behaviors. As well as avoidance, this kind of behavior helps the anxiety grow in the long term. Safety behavior can be thought of as a more subtle form of avoidance.

Societal and Cultural Influences

Culture can influence the content of a person’s anxiety.

Cultural factors may also help explain why some fears are more common in women than men.

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