While the exact cause of anxiety is unknown, it’s usually a combination of genetic and environmental factors that may include:
- Stress due to serious, chronic illnesses
- Stress buildup (death in the family, job stress, financial stress, etc.)
- Trauma or abuse
- Family history or genetic predisposition
- Gender (women are twice as likely as men to develop an anxiety disorder)
- History of substance abuse
- Type A personality
- Underlying medical conditions:
What role does your brain play in anxiety?
- Amygdala: Part of your brain that sends signals to other parts of your brain when you face a threat or anything that elicits fear. It has been found to be affected by specific triggers.
- Hippocampus: Part of your brain stores memories of fears. It has been found to be reduced in size in people who suffered abuse in their childhood.
5 types of anxiety disorders
Depending on symptoms and causes, anxiety disorders are classified into five major types:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Characterized by excessive worrying even when there are little to no triggers.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Characterized by recurring thoughts that cause you to repetitively perform activities such as cleaning, washing hands, or checking door locks.
- Panic disorder: Characterized by sudden and repeated episodes of anxiety with physical symptoms including chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal pain.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Can develop after exposure to traumatic events such as natural disasters, accidents, or military combat.
- Social anxiety disorder: Characterized by excessive self-consciousness and worry about how you are viewed by others, which can lead to avoiding normal situations such as eating or drinking in front of people.
Why should anxiety be treated?
Anxiety can make you more prone to things such as:
- Substance misuse
- Insomnia (inability to fall or stay asleep)
- Digestive problems such as bloating and nausea
- Chronic pain
Anxiety can also affect your relationships and performance at work or school, and it can also become so severe that it leads to suicidal thoughts. It’s important to seek professional help so that you can manage your symptoms and learn about effective coping strategies.
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Davies MN, Verdi S, Burri A, et al. Generalised Anxiety Disorder--A Twin Study of Genetic Architecture, Genome-Wide Association, and Differential Gene Expression. PLoS One. 2015 Aug 14;10(8):e0134865.
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