What Are the Causes of Anxiety? 9 Potential Causes

Medically Reviewed on 10/13/2022
What Are the Causes of Anxiety
Anxiety is not caused by a single factor but often a combination of factors, such as genetic predisposition, traumatic experiences, personality, and physical health

Anxiety is often caused by a combination of factors, including genetic predisposition, life experiences, and certain medications.

The exact cause of anxiety is unknown. Generally, a single factor does not cause an anxiety disorder, but several factors work together to do so.

9 potential causes of anxiety

1. Genetic predisposition

Anxiety disorders can sometimes run in families, and some people who experience them may have a hereditary propensity to develop them. However, having a parent or other close family member who has anxiety or another mental health disorder does not guarantee that you will have it.

2. Brain chemistry

According to several studies, dysfunctional brain circuits that regulate emotions and fear may be responsible for anxiety disorders.

3. Stress

Stress can trigger anxiety, whether it is due to work, a divorce, or the death of a loved one. Although stress can come and go, it can lead to anxiety if it manifests as excessive worry even when there is no external stressor. 

4. Trauma

Children who experience abuse and trauma are more likely to develop anxiety disorders later in life. Anxiety disorders can also emerge in adults who experience traumatic events.

5. Low self-esteem

Social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder are both associated with low self-esteem. If you are prone to having a negative self-image, you may be more likely to develop an anxiety disorder.

6. Personality

Studies have suggested that certain personality traits are associated with a higher risk of anxiety. For instance, anxiety can occasionally arise in those who are perfectionists, easily agitated, shy, and inhibited.

7. Substance use

Some people who experience anxiety may turn to alcohol or other medications to help them cope with their feelings. In some cases, this can cause people to also develop substance use and anxiety disorders. Use of alcohol and other drugs, especially after the effects wear off, can worsen anxiety symptoms. 

8. Caffeine intake

Caffeine can cause jitteriness, irritability, or even anxiety. The FDA advises limiting caffeine intake to no more than 400 mg per day. 

9. Certain medical conditions

A chronic physical condition can exacerbate an anxiety disorder or have an effect on how the anxiety or the physical condition is treated. The following are examples of common chronic disorders linked to anxiety:

Some physical conditions, such as an overactive thyroid, may cause symptoms that resemble those of anxiety disorders. To determine whether there may be a medical reason for your symptoms of anxiety, it can be helpful to visit a doctor and be evaluated.

What are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders are often characterized by recurrent bouts of acute anxiety, fear, or terror that peak in a matter of minutes (panic attacks). The effects of these sensations of anxiety and panic can be severe, difficult to regulate, out of proportion to the real threat, and last a long period of time.  Symptoms may start during childhood or adolescence, and can then last until adulthood. 

Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, specific phobias, and separation anxiety disorder. Multiple anxiety disorders can exist at the same time.


Panic attacks are repeated attacks of fear that can last for several minutes. See Answer

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 10/13/2022
Image Source: Getty image