Mental Health

What Causes Anxiety? 9 Factors

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Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Anxiety disorders are the most common class of mental illness. Anxiety disorders are prevalent among all age groups. They influence an expected 40 million individuals in the United States, as indicated by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Globally around 284 million people suffer from a form of anxiety.

Anxiety is characterized by critical feelings of nervousness, restlessness, and tension. Explaining what causes anxiety and its related issues can be complex, as several factors, including psychological, emotional, and social factors, can be involved.

Anxiety is not developed suddenly but rather gradually.

This article gives a deep insight into the different causes of anxiety:

Social Environment


Your social environment has a significant impact on how you feel. How are your relationships? What is the standard of living in your area? What is your educational level? Let’s have a closer look at the social factors.

Conflict & Violence

Tensions, arguments, conflicts, and violence can cause or worsen anxiety.  Learning conflict resolution strategies can help you deal with these conflicts. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy can help you cope with the feelings of anxiety that these conflicts cause and be proactive the next time you have to face a conflictive situation. Mental and physical violence is another issue. If you are in a toxic or abusive relationship (traumatic bonding), the best thing you can do is call for legal advice and mental support to leave as quickly as possible.

-Financial Problems

Even if many people who deal with this issue feel ashamed and never talk about it, money anxiety or financial stress is a common issue. The best you can do to get out of your current situation is to get financial advice. Once this is done, you should focus on the future as a way to escape your stressful present. Make some lovely plans for the future and try to lay the foundations little by little.

Daily exercise and mindfulness are great ways to evacuate the negative energy you have to deal with right now.

Suppose you do not seem able to get rid of your anxious feelings and keep worrying about your future all the time. In that case, you should consult your psychologist to find out if you are dealing with a generalized anxiety disorder or GAD.

-Housing Problems & Homelessness

Homelessness is a particular topic because it is an extreme outcome of financial problems. At the same time, mental illnesses often cause homelessness. The stress of being homeless has proven to amplify poor mental health, encouraging mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Let’s go back to the basics. Housing problems affect mental health, and people with a mental health issue are one and a half times more likely to live in a rental house. The uncertainty and financial pressure that comes with renting your home can undoubtedly trigger or worsen anxiety.

What do we do if we have problems finding or keeping suitable housing? The best thing you can do is to contact a social worker in your area. Note that social workers can also give you guidelines to find solutions for mental health problems like anxiety.



Lifestyle, the way in which you live, including your habits and what you consume, has a significant impact on your mental health and can drastically impact your level of stress and anxiety.

-Consuming Alcohol

Alcohol-induced anxiety can last from a few hours to an entire day after drinking. The simplified explanation is that your happy-hormones or serotonin levels decrease and that the levels of your stress-hormones or cortisol rise after the alcohol wears off. The hormonal factor, combined with the dehydration that comes with alcohol consumption, makes you feel anxious.

There is a clear link between anxiety and drinking habits because when you drink, you feel calmer. But be wise and drink with moderation. You can believe me when I say that binge drinking will only make your anxiety worse and more likely trigger other health issues.    

-Consuming Drugs ( like marijuana or cocaïne)

Some people say that marijuana relieves anxiety. What I have to say about that is that it has been proven that THC increases your heart rate. This doesn’t seem a good idea to me for an anxious person. Long term use will create psychological dependence and will increase your risk of developing other mental health issues.

Unsurprisingly smoking cannabis has proven to skyrocket your cortisol levels. These stress-hormones will make you feel anxious and even paranoid in some cases.

The conclusion about the consumption of marijuana is that in the short-term and in very low quantity, it is beneficial against anxiety. But like we see with alcohol consumption, very few people consume it in very low amounts and only for a short time. So, the best option is not to smoke weed at all.

As for cocaine, this is a hard-drug used by way too many people to improve their self-esteem. As cocaine is a stimulant, it will increase your brain activity and your anxiety along with it. If you start using it often, you will also create dependency. So please don’t do drugs.

-Consuming Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that will raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Your cortisol and adrenaline levels in the blood will also more than double. So, if you are an anxious person, do not consume caffeine. Remember, almost all drinks exist in a version without caffeine.

-Consuming Processed Food (Fast Food & Junk Food)

Please, start eating “real food” if you do not want to feel anxious and depressed anymore. Unhealthy food high in saturated fats, sugar, and salt is bad for your heart and increases your blood pressure. Refined carbohydrates (present in a wide variety of junk food and fast food) can cause your blood sugar to fluctuate. Low blood sugar causes anxiety. 

-Consuming Refined Sugar (candy, soda, pie…)

Refined sugar triggers your adrenal glands, regulating the stress hormone cortisol and the blood pressure regulator aldosterone. This makes refined sugar a big no-no for anxious people.

-Consuming MSG

Monosodium Glutamate or MSG, a flavor enhancer commonly added to chips, instant noodles, instant soups, processed meats… Consumption of MSG can raise your blood levels of glutamate, a powerful excitatory neurotransmitter.

-Consuming Aspartame

Aspartame, an artificial sweetener mostly found in diet soft drinks, chewing gum, flavored yogurts, tabletop sweeteners… Aspartame tricks our brain into being unable to regulate our energy intake, and we don’t want that when we struggle with anxiety.

– Taking the Wrong Medication (side effects)

Anxiety and stress may also be triggered as side effects of certain medications. The active ingredient in some medications may make you feel nervous and anxious. Medications that may cause anxiety include both prescription and over the counter drugs like cough formulations, weight loss medications, and contraceptives. Even stress-relieving drugs, when taken too much, will make you feel more anxious and depressed.

-Sedentary Lifestyle & Not Practicing Sports

People leading a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to suffer from anxiety because their bodies build up physical stress that is interpreted the same way as emotional stress by our brain and triggers hormones that make us feel bad. If you decide to start exercising at least half an hour each day outside in the sunlight, you will enable your body to produce a healthy amount of serotonin to make you feel happy and relaxed.

Toxic Self-Criticism & Negative Mindset


Toxic Self-Criticism

Public events like public speaking, office meetings, presenting a project in front of colleagues, and even reading loudly are the common triggers of anxiety. Fear of public speaking is the most well-known cause of anxiety. This is especially true in people that suffer from toxic self-criticism and try to reach excessively high standards. By not being kind to yourself, you put high amounts of pressure on yourself, which will trigger your anxiety. A vicious circle can be created this way of suffering anxiety and panic attacks and having toxic self-criticism afterward. Often this toxic behavior ends with other pathologies like social phobia and agoraphobia.

This type of anxiety often results in panic attacks, sweaty hands, quirky voice, tremors, and avoidance of public speaking situations in the future.  Parties, gatherings, and social events that may demand you to present yourself are also common triggers. In this situation, anxiety is often triggered by a fear of being judged or rejected by others. Feelings of being not good enough compared to others may prevail at such events making you feel stressed and depressed.

Negative Mindset

If negative self-criticism becomes a constant state of mind, you can become your worst enemy without even realizing it.

Negative thoughts always have negative outcomes. Pessimism and anxiousness trigger stress and anxiety. Discouraging yourself with negative thoughts like, “I am bad at everything “or “for what reason is life being so hard” or “Life is too tough to handle” can go far in causing pressure and anxiety.

Change your perspective and discover how beautiful things around you turn out to be. Positive affirmations like ” I am trying my best to be better in my life,” “with my endeavors and enthusiasm, I will accomplish something significant in my life,” or “life is fair enough to show me new ways to achieve my goals” may sound like futilities but are very important. People who are positive and who find great satisfaction in achieving little goals are unlikely to suffer from anxiety.

Health Issues


A serious health condition or its mere diagnosis not only affects your physical health. Diseases and health issues may also affect your mental health and trigger anxiety.

Hypertension, heart problems, overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism, respiratory problems, severe pain (8 and above on the pain scale), drug withdrawal, and certain tumors like brain tumors and adrenal gland tumors are conditions that mimic anxiety disorders.

Being diagnosed with chronic medical conditions like cancer, Aids, or diabetes also immediately produces feelings of anxiety, panic, and despair. The present situation of the COVID-19 pandemic may also be stressful for most people. The fear that life-threatening disease can catch you anywhere without you even knowing may lead to anxiety and depression.

Being confronted to death or thinking that we are in great danger triggers our fight-or-flight response, which is the mechanism in our brain responsible for anxiety.

Traumatic Events


In general, anxiety can have specific personal triggers like a scent, smell, sound, or seeing a person. These simple things may trigger anxiety as they may remind you of a traumatic event in your life, whether consciously or unconsciously. Personal triggers are different for every individual. They can be caused by repressed trauma.

Phobias like agoraphobia, acrophobia or emetophobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder may also aggravate your anxiety symptoms.

-Death of a Loved-One

During the grieving process, you’re overwhelmed by strong emotions like deep sadness and intense anger. Those feelings can be scary and trigger mild anxiety. Don’t worry, this is normal. After all, you just experienced a traumatic event. But if the symptoms of an anxiety disorder don’t disappear after six months, you should consult a mental health professional.

-Injuries, Dangers & Abuse

Physical, Mental, and Sexual Abuse experiencing extreme danger or being injured can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, even years after the traumatic experience. PTSD is an anxiety disorder.

Genetic Factors & Personality


Having a family background of mental health issues like drug abuse or misuse, phobia, anxiety disorders, disturbed sleep, mood, or eating patterns are among other contributing factors.

In other words, research has proven that anxiety is genetic, but the biological basis is not the only one. Other risk factors include brain chemistry, life events, and personality.

Personality also has a significant role in causing anxiety. Individuals with specific character attributes are prone to have anxiety. For instance, those who are easily bothered, shy, lack confidence, self-obsessed, or control freaks are more likely to develop anxiety during their lifetime.

Too High Expectations:  Perfectionism, Workaholism & Materialism



If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you are most likely a perfectionist. Perfectionism or the fact that nothing you do is will ever be good enough is a cause of anxiety. The only way to cope with perfectionism is to be self-conscient and accept yourself as you are.


Workaholism is an addiction and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD. OCD is a stress-related anxiety disorder. Workaholism leads to other conditions like work (place) anxiety and burn-out.

I know that in most countries, your boss will love you if you are a workaholic but being a workaholic is unhealthy, and in the long run, it is impossible to sustain.

How do you cope with workaholism? The best way is to strictly separate your working hours from your free time and find yourself a hobby. The best hobbies for workaholics would combine mindfulness and exercise like, for example, yoga or mindful walking.


Materialism, spiritual emptiness, wanting always more, chronic dissatisfaction, and try to buy happiness is the highway towards anxiety and depression. Consider taking the other road, the one of mindfulness and minimalism. You will undoubtedly lose a few possessions, but you might lose your anxiety disorder too!

Routine Stress


Routine stress is related to family, work, and other daily activities. Of course, routine stress can give you anxiety. What can you do about it? Two things. First of all, learn to say no. If you can’t or don’t want to do it, you have the option to decline, even if often this option doesn’t seem fair or reasonable. The second thing is that you have to take me-time regularly to relax.

Changing Your Environment


Changing your environment is stressful and can give anxiety to everyone. But after some time you will see that this is exciting, you find new opportunities and make new friends. Suppose the initial anxiety of moving away from your safe environment doesn’t go away after a few months or worsens. In that case, you need to consult a mental health professional because you may suffer from an early stage of agoraphobia.

Mental Health Awareness

A variety of factors correlate and contribute to developing anxiety.

Analyzing the major causes of anxiety, we notice that change and the uncertainty that comes with change are major factors in anxiety. Being anxious sometimes is normal, but if your anxiety is recurrent or worsens, you need to seek help.

 Remember that often you can’t recognize the reason for your anxious feelings or remedy the conditions that cause your anxiety by yourself. Don’t just suffer in silence. The best thing you can do is look for counseling and psychological support once you notice the first signs of anxiety.

Question: Do you think that there are any other causes of anxiety?

infographicwhat causes anxiety?
Infographic: What causes anxiety? What causes anxiety? What causes anxiety? 14 things that can make you feel anxious What causes anxiety problems?

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