Understanding Anxiety: Causes, Risk Factors, and Coping Strategies

Anxiety can be a debilitating condition, leaving people feeling isolated, helpless, and scared. The physical symptoms of anxiety can cause tremendous distress: palpitations, sweating, dizziness, and other physical sensations of unease, as well as overwhelming mental health symptoms of fear, panic and tension. But, understanding anxiety is the first step to taking actions towards treatment and recovery. In this blog post, we’ll delve into what causes anxiety, what the risk factors are, and common coping strategies to put into action. We’ll also take a look at how anxiety can be managed and lived with in a healthy way. By gaining a better understanding of anxiety, we can begin to take the necessary steps to chart out a path towards a life free from its shackles.

Quick Review

There are many potential causes and risk factors for anxiety, including biological, environmental, psychological, and lifestyle factors. Some common risk factors include environmental stressors, chronic medical conditions, substance abuse, withdrawal from certain substances and certain inherited traits.

Risk Factors of Anxiety

Anxiety is a multifaceted problem, with many factors contributing to its occurrence and severity. Notably, risk factors for anxiety can be both internal and external. Commonly known internal risk factors include the presence of a family history of mental health issues, as well as other underlying mental health conditions such as depression or substance use disorder. Additionally, certain personality types have been linked to an increased vulnerability to developing an anxiety disorder. Anxiety-prone individuals often tend to be more sensitive, introverted, and possess a heightened capacity for fear and worry. Other internal risk factors may also be related to an individual’s genetic makeup which has been recently studied by researchers in order to gain a better understanding of what makes certain people more prone to anxiety than others.

In terms of external risk factors, many studies have pointed towards environmental influences such as chronic stress or adversity growing up as strong contributors towards the development of an anxiety disorder. Furthermore, living in a world that constantly triggers anxious thoughts due to perceived threats from everyday situations (such as work deadlines or large social events) has been found to play a role in provoking feelings of anxiety even in people without any diagnosed mental health conditions.

In conclusion, it is important to acknowledge that there are numerous potential precursors of anxiety disorders which stem from both internal and external environments. Although the causes vary depending on the individual, understanding these risk factors could be useful in recognizing warning signs and possible ways of preventing more severe cases in the future. With this knowledge, we can now proceed onto exploring how genetics may predispose someone towards developing an anxiety disorder–the topic of the next section.

  • A 2018 meta-analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry found that genetics may play a role in anxiety, with heritability estimated at 31.9%.
  • A 2019 review of studies published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment linked traumatic experiences to anxiety disorder later in life.
  • According to 2019 research published by Therapeutic Advancements in Psychopharmacology, gender is a risk factor for developing an anxiety disorder, with women being nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed as men.

Genetic Predisposition

Anxiety disorders, like many other mental health conditions, may have a genetic component. That is, some individuals may possess a genetic predisposition to developing an anxiety disorder due to certain alleles they inherit from their parents. Since the 1970s, researchers have studied the heritability rates of anxiety — the extent to which certain types of anxiety are passed down through generations — in attitudes and behavior. They have found modest levels of heritability ranging between 30–40% exist for many types of anxiety. However, that leaves 60–70% of the variance unexplained by genetics alone and instead attributed to environmental factors.

This gap speaks to the importance of considering both genetic and environmental influences when determining factors that lead to or help manage anxiety symptoms. For example, genetic predisposition could work together with environmental factors like stressful life experiences to increase risk for developing an anxiety disorder. Moreover, this combination of factors helps explain why two people with identical genotypes can still diverge in terms of their outward behaviors and experiences with mental health.

Although research continues on the relationship between genetics and anxiety, it’s important to remember that any anxiety-related traits or alleles one might possess do not define who they are as a person or guarantee the development of an anxiety disorder. Plenty of people without any family history of anxiety can develop symptoms and vice versa. The study of heritability only explains part of the story; broader environmental influences determine the remaining risk factors associated with anxious behavior.

Therefore, individuals should take a holistic approach in exploring how genetic pre-dispositions may interact with environmental triggers in understanding their own personal experience with anxiety and its causes. Moving forward into our next section on “Environmental Factors”, we will take a closer look at some examples of these external influences on anxiety disorders and coping strategies used in response.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors can play an important role in the risk of developing anxiety. Studies show that stressful life events, such as physical or emotional abuse, a significant loss or traumatic event, or other stressful situations can lead to anxiety. Additionally, living in an environment with high levels of fear or insecurity could increase an individual’s chances of developing anxiety. This could include social circumstances, such as being ostracized by peers or family, living in an unstable home or in a neighborhood with large amounts of crime.

Some may argue that genetics are the most important factor leading to anxiety disorders. While there is some evidence that certain genetic variations may be related to increased risk, the presence of social and environmental factors can still contribute significantly. Genetics are only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding how mental health issues arise and how they can be better managed.

When looking at environmental factors influencing mental health, two key areas to consider include proximal (those which occur directly and recently), and distal (those which occurred in the past and remote) factors. Under these umbrella terms may lie home environment (such as physical maltreatment or neglect), social adjustment difficulties, violations of basic needs (housing instability and food shortages), school-related issues (poor academic performance), financial pressures, substance use by others in the household, legal issues, community violence exposure and many more factors. A thorough environmental assessment should focus on these types of risks when trying to understand why someone may experience high levels of anxiety.

Overall, it is important to consider both genetic and environmental risks when thinking about anxiety disorders. It is clear that there are numerous external life experiences or conditions that could trigger higher levels of fear and insecurity which could lead to anxiety over time if not addressed appropriately. With this in mind, the next section will explore common causes of anxiety beyond these environmental factors already discussed.

Common Causes of Anxiety

When it comes to understanding anxiety and the causes of it, there is a great deal of complexity. History, environment and genetics can all play a role in its development. Common causes of anxiety can include stress, genetics, a medical condition or physical health, substance use, and traumatic experiences.

Stress is often one of the most common causes of anxiety. This can come from work, school, family or personal relationships. Financial strain and high-pressure situations, such as exams or tests can also contribute to stress levels. When these issues accumulate they can overwhelm individuals leading to persistent feelings of worry and fear that can develop into an anxiety disorder.

Genetics are another contributing factor to the development of anxiety. If one or both parents have experienced an anxiety disorder then it becomes more likely for someone to have anxiety themselves due to genetic disposition. Though evidence suggests that genetics are significant contributors to the cause of anxiety, different environmental factors will also be playing a role if the disorder develops.

A medical condition or physical health issue could potentially trigger an underlying pre-existing form of anxiety. For instance an individual who already had an unknown predisposition for social anxiety might develop its symptoms more quickly after experiencing unusual fatigue or dizziness due to certain medical conditions or life changes that affect physical health such as childbirth or menopause.

Substance use is another possible cause of anxiety as certain illicit drugs or alcohol taken in excessive amounts can lead to elevated heart rates and panic attacks even in those previously unaffected by such issues. It must be noted that while some people claim that substance use helps them relax it should not be seen as a valid coping strategy as this is ultimately only masking the problem rather than addressing its deeper causes which may soon become further visible without the influence of controlled substances.

Finally traumatic experiences may also be a contributing factor towards the development of an anxiety disorder especially if the event involved physical danger or when unpredictable events cross paths with sensitive circumstances for whatever reason. Any type of physical assault including sexual assault might also trigger these issues either during or after the episode has ended depending on whether it was recent or happened before during childhood years where it was never properly addressed psychologically speaking.

These potential common causes of anxiety demonstrate how there are many different factors at play when it comes to developing and treating disorders associated with this emotional state. In order to properly understand and address this issue further, one must consider all aspects mentioned above alongside other potential influences such as psychological well-being and external expectations from society which will be addressed in the next section on Physical Health.

Physical Health

The connection between physical health and mental health is clearly evident when considering anxiety. A variety of physical conditions such as heart disease, chronic pain, diabetes, thyroid problems and sleep disorders can create or contribute to the development of anxiety in individuals. Additionally, research has demonstrated that long-term stress accumulation in the body can negatively impact the immune system leading to a greater propensity towards illness and disease.

Physical ailments can also be indicative of anxiety itself; common physiological symptoms of anxiety include headaches, chest pain, sweating, lightheadedness, stomach ache, fatigue and restlessness. These symptoms can be so severe they interfere with work productivity, family life and leisure activities. It’s important to remember that what most people may consider minor physical discomforts could suggest a deep-rooted psychological disorder—if ignored these physical issues can worsen over time. Many people are unaware of the deep-seated connection between their physical wellbeing and mental health. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain communication with your medical professional about any physical discomforts that arise.

The link between physical health and mental health is a two-way street; when physical health is good it is easier to maintain mental well being. On the other hand, issues such as chronic pain or sleep deprivation only serve to perpetuate feelings of distress. Therefore it is essential to keep up with preventative healthcare measures to ensure one’s physical wellbeing since this will greatly aid in minimizing risk factors for anxiety.

By understanding this close relationship between physical and mental health we can take necessary steps towards reducing our susceptibility to anxiety. Now let’s move on to discussing mental health issues and understanding the relationship between fear and anxiety.

Mental Health

Mental health is an important factor in our ability to cope with anxiety and understand its underlying causes. Mental health refers to a person’s psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing, and includes our ability to effectively manage stress and make insightful decisions about our lives. Without good mental health, it can be difficult for individuals to adequately assess the severity of their anxious thoughts or feelings, as well as to address the stressors that contribute to their symptoms.

Good mental health is essential for effectively managing anxiety, as it allows us to be aware of and regulate our emotions in healthy ways during stressful situations. Poor mental health can lead to issues such as difficulty forming healthy relationships, difficulty making it through everyday tasks, and lack of satisfaction with life. This can lead people to rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol when they experience anxious episodes.

Mental illness is also a contributing factor to anxiety levels, as those who suffer from conditions such as depression or bipolar disorder are at increased risk of experiencing anxious thoughts or feelings on top of their existing condition. However, there is dispute about how much mental illness actually contributes to anxiety disorder development. While there is clear evidence that some people develop anxiety disorders due to existing mental health issues, there also seems to be a growing consensus among researchers that many cases of diagnosed anxiety are likely due more to genetics than preexisting conditions.

Though there is still debate about the exact role of mental illness in general anxiety disorder diagnosis, it’s clear that maintaining positive mental health overall is key for staying emotionally balanced and coping with stress-related anxieties when they arise. With this in mind, the next section will explore how emotional trauma can lead to persistent anxieties, and what steps we can take to address them.


Mental health is important for managing anxiety. Poor mental health can lead to reliance on unhealthy coping mechanisms; however, the contribution of mental illness to anxiety disorder development has been disputed and may depend largely on genetics. Maintaining positive mental health overall can help individuals stay emotionally balanced and cope with anxiety-related issues.

Emotional Trauma

Emotional trauma can be a major source and contributing factor to anxiety. Traumatic experiences can be due to a single event, like an accident or physical attack, or as a result of the cumulative effect of other experiences, such as chronic illness, neglect, or abuse. Most often this type of trauma is connected to negative emotions like fear, guilt and shame that can have long lasting effects on an individual’s mental health down the road.

One side of the argument holds that everyone experiences trauma differently, and so there is no one-size-fits-all system for recovery. Someone who has experienced emotional trauma might benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques including journaling, meditation, or self-expression activities like art. Additionally, reaching out for social support from family members or professional counselors can often help people cope with the effects of trauma in a productive way that doesn’t lead to additional feelings of insecurity and anxiety.

On the other hand, some argue that traumatic events can leave an imprint on people for years afterwards that cannot be undone through therapy or talk. It may be impossible to erase traumatic experiences completely because they become embedded in a person’s psychological makeup. Because of this, it may take repeated attempts at various coping strategies before someone is able to come to terms with his or her past traumas and start down the path towards healing.

No matter what opinion one holds on the matter, it is important to recognize that emotional trauma can be an invaluable source of understanding when it comes to understanding anxiety and its causes. With increased awareness and knowledge about how these traumas often manifest themselves in cases of anxiety, professionals are better equipped to develop solutions for individuals looking for relief from their symptoms. It is also important to acknowledge that our own perspectives and attitudes towards emotional trauma can have an impact on those we care about who are struggling with anxiety related issues.

Moving forward into the next section: Social Struggles can also contribute significantly to states of heightened anxiety. The social environment surrounding an individual greatly influences their experience with anxiety and can create unique pressure points that must be addressed in order to foster healthy coping mechanisms and behaviors.

Social Struggles

Navigating social situations can be overwhelming for those who live with anxiety — especially if they are naturally introverted or have difficulty expressing themselves to others. People who experience social anxiety typically fear being embarrassed or judged in any kind of public setting. They may feel overwhelmed by large groups of people or even a single one-on-one interaction, which can lead to isolation and loneliness. This fear of judgement, combined with others’ reactions, can amplify an individual’s anxious feelings and exacerbate the disorder.

On the flipside, many people with anxiety actively seek out social interactions that allow them to foster their sense of self-worth, even if such encounters come with performance anxiety or intense self-scrutiny. Through positive interactions, individuals may become better equipped at identifying and tackling their anxieties head on by overcoming smaller challenges like raising their hand in class or joining a group conversation. Along the way, they may also find solace in creating meaningful social relationships that provide much needed support during times of distress.

It is important to recognize that both successes and failures in building social relationships can shape how we respond in future social settings. How we approach our difficulties plays a much bigger role in understanding how anxiety develops as it affects our ability to manage our thoughts and emotions over time. With this in mind, let’s explore how an individual’s experiences can shape their relationship with anxiety. The following section will investigate how anxiety develops from both environmental and biological factors.

How Anxiety Develops

Anxiety develops in a variety of ways and can be influenced by biological, psychological, and social factors. Biological factors such as genetics or hormonal imbalances can cause anxiety, while psychological factors such as stressors or life transitions can also play an important role in the development of anxiety. Social influences may include environmental change, adult role models, peers, and family dynamics. Each influence may contribute to anxiety differently, depending on the individual.

The underlying root cause for each person’s anxiety is likely to be different. For some individuals, disorder-based accounts of serious mental health issues may be the most accurate explanation for their experience of anxiety. Others may describe feelings of anxiousness that exist but don’t always reach a point at which the individual needs to seek professional help. For those who identify more minor anxieties, there is often an identifiable trigger that results in an episode of anxiousness.

Although there is no single cause of anxiety, it is believed that genetics can play a role in its development because it is often observed that it runs in families or clusters among certain populations. Also, research has indicated that certain genes are associated with increased levels of certain neurotransmitters or hormones that have been linked with panic attacks.

In summary, mental health experts recognize a variety of causes for the onset and developement of anxiety, though the underlying root causes may vary from person to person. The next section will focus on signs and symptoms of anxiety so individuals can better recognize then adapt when they experience persistent symptoms of anxiety.

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is a mental health disorder characterized by a recurrent feeling of fear, worry, unease, and dread. Such emotions can lead to physical and psychological changes in the body – including feelings of intense panic, restlessness, nausea, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, headaches, tremor or shaking, sweating, difficulty breathing, numbness and tingling, and difficulty sleeping. Anxiety can also manifest itself in avoiding social interactions or activities due to dread or fear of engaging in them.

The specific symptoms of anxiety may vary across individuals depending on their age and cultural background. Children with anxiety tend to experience more physical symptoms such as stomachaches or vomiting while adults may find themselves obsessively worrying over insignificant things like deadlines or presentations. Some individuals may also experience extreme fatigue, mental fog or confusion as well as depression-like symptoms such as loss of interest in activities they once found enjoyable.

Symptoms of anxiety can be categorized as physical and psychological. Physical symptoms typically involve increased heart rate (tachycardia), sweating palms/feet (diaphoresis), difficulty breathing (dyspnea), trembling or shaking (tremulousness) and muscular tension (muscle aches). Cognitive symptoms can include intrusive thoughts or worries that persist and interfere with regular functioning. Behaviourally, those experiencing anxiety may become easily agitated or avoid important tasks out of fear or dread. Other potential behavioural signs may include changes in normal behaviours such as avoiding people transitioning from being outgoing to isolated from social situations.

While it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of anxiety for proper diagnosis and treatment, it is also essential to consider that many of these sensations can be a result of other issues (e.g., illness) rather than actual anxiety. As a result, having an accurate diagnosis made by a medical professional who can assess the situation objectively is necessary in order for the best therapeutic approach aimed at reducing unpleasant symptoms associated with anxiety to be identified.

Now that the signs and symptoms that come with anxiety have been outlined, it’s time to discuss some risk reduction techniques that target these particular experiences.

Risk Reduction Techniques

Reducing the risk of experiencing anxiety is possible if individuals are willing to take proactive steps to make lifestyle changes and lifestyle adjustments. Studies have shown that engaging in regular physical activity, consuming a healthy and balanced diet, receiving adequate rest, and learning coping mechanisms to manage stress can help reduce the chances of an individual clinically experiencing signs of an anxiety disorder.

Additionally, practicing good social habits and attending counseling sessions may be helpful for people who have indicated that they have difficulty managing feelings of anxiety or stress. Good social habits include displaying good communication skills, actively listening when engaged in conversation with others, advocating for one’s own needs in a respectful way, and learning how to practice self-regulation. Counseling sessions can teach individuals how to develop new thought patterns that may help them alleviate anxious feelings.

However, some sources suggest that certain risk factors related to experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder are outside the control of individuals. This includes biological factors such as genetic predisposition, preexisting medical conditions, or even age-related issues. With this debate, it is important to acknowledge that no matter what the underlying cause may be, anyone who experiences frequent warning signs of anxiety should seek professional help and treatment.

By following these risk reduction techniques and seeking professional support as needed, it is possible to not only manage existing anxious feelings but also reduce the chances of developing an anxiety disorder in the future. The next section will discuss professional support for anxiety and detail ways for individuals struggling with anxious feelings to get help.

Professional Support for Anxiety

Seeking professional help for managing anxiety can yield positive outcomes for those living with the disorder. Professional support for anxiety can come in the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medication, or an integrated approach that includes both. It is important to consider a variety of factors when deciding to seek out professional support, such as access to care, insurance coverage, and the individual’s preferences and values.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is a type of psychotherapy which focuses on helping individuals identify unhelpful thought patterns, understand how thoughts contribute to feelings, and learn coping strategies to manage behaviors in stressful situations. Through CBT, some individuals are able to better manage their symptoms of anxiety and improve their overall quality of life. Although effects may not be immediately seen, research has shown that individuals who engage in CBT experience long-term benefits with continued practice of healthy coping tools. Accessing care through CBT is often more affordable and widely available compared to medical treatments. That being said, for those without access to mental health providers or resources, engaging in accessible evidence-based treatment interventions requires additional effort.


For some patients, medication may be an option for managing symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. Medical intervention typically involves starting with low doses and slowly increasing amounts over time in order to find the most effective dose for alleviating symptoms. Common medications used are SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety medications) and tricyclic antidepressants among others. Though these medications may provide short-term relief from symptoms such as tension or racing thoughts, long-term use can be dangerous as they are habit-forming and carry serious side effects like sedation and increased risk of suicidality when stopped abruptly or decreased too quickly. Additionally, while they may reduce symptoms in some areas, they do not target the root cause of anxiety underneath which may still exist if left untreated.

Integrated Approach

When it comes to managing anxiety disorders, many professionals suggest employing an integrated approach, combining both CBT and medication when needed. This combines cognitive restructuring techniques with pharmacological methods to achieve symptom reduction while providing necessary tools to maintain lasting change through new thought patterns and behaviors. Individualizing treatment plans is essential as everyone will react differently depending on their situation; combined approaches may enable each patient to design a plan that works best specifically for them while allowing flexibility based on ever-changing needs along the way.

Frequently Asked Questions and Responses

How does anxiety affect an individual physically, mentally, and emotionally?

Anxiety can have a profound effect on an individual physically, mentally, and emotionally. Physically, anxiety can cause rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, muscle tension, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, sweating, stomach upset and trembling. Mentally, it can create an overwhelm of negative patterns of thought such as self-doubt and worry that interfere with logic and reasoning. Emotionally, it can lead to intense states of irritability, sadness or guilt. Anxiety can cause individuals to avoid certain situations that bring about these unpleasant sensations and ultimately limit one’s ability to progress in their daily life. Coping strategies for anxiety often involve mindfulness techniques such as positive self-talk and relaxation exercises to help manage stress levels.

In what ways can the risk factors for anxiety be managed or minimized?

The risk factors for anxiety can be managed or minimized in a variety of ways. First, managing stress levels through relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, and mindfulness can help reduce the risk of developing anxiety. Second, maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious foods, getting regular exercise, and getting enough sleep can all help to reduce anxiety. Additionally, reaching out to friends and family for emotional support or utilizing therapy can help an individual manage their anxiety more effectively. Finally, learning positive self-talk and using positive affirmations can reframe an individual’s self-perception and give them the coping skills necessary to manage their anxiety more proactively. By following these steps it is possible to minimize the risk of developing anxiety or at least manage its symptoms more effectively.

What are the most common life events associated with the development of anxiety?

The most common life events associated with the development of anxiety are experiences of trauma or stress, such as childhood abuse, neglect, parental divorce, or a major illness. Other life events that can contribute to anxiety include moving to a new home or school, being in an unfamiliar environment, dealing with a major change in lifestyle (for example, switching to a vegan lifestyle), starting college or university, addressing financial struggles, and losing a loved one. It is important to note that these types of life events do not necessarily lead to anxiety; however, they can increase anyone’s risk of developing anxiety if not managed appropriately.

It is also possible for anxiety to develop without any obvious trigger or life event. In some cases, anxieties such as social phobias or panic attacks may simply manifest without any particular identifiable originating cause. In order to better understand the causes and underlying factors of each individual’s anxiety, it is important to receive professional help from professionals such as licensed therapists and counselors.

Next: Causes and Risk Factors of Anxiety