Anxiety involves a person feeling disproportionate and sustained distress, worry, or fear in response to an emotional trigger. Anxiety can have a wide range of causes. These can include environmental, genetic, and medical factors.
A variety of factors can increase the likelihood of feeling anxious. These factors may be internal, involving genetics, for example, or external, involving racial inequity or ecological concerns.
Feelings of anxiety and anxiety disorders are not the same. Anxiety is an emotion characterized by tension, worried thoughts, and physical characteristics, such as increased blood pressure. An anxiety disorder involves recurring, intrusive thoughts or concerns and other specific criteria that lead to a diagnosis.
This article explores several causes of anxiety.
A variety of environmental factors can increase the likelihood of anxiety. For example, a person’s family composition, their cultural and religious upbringing, and many other childhood experiences can influence anxiety levels, according to a 2018 review.
People may feel anxiety as a result of various life stressors. These are not universal and can affect different people in different ways.
Social situations may cause anxiety if a person believes that they might act in a way that could be negatively perceived.
A person might experience anxiety when required to perform publicly or in any situation where there is a real or perceived threat of scrutiny.
The effects of this anxiety can vary. For example, a 2014 review suggested that feelings of social anxiety may exacerbate stuttering and lead to a disabling experience for adults who stutter. However, fully understanding the relationship between between social anxiety and stuttering, especially among children and adolescents, will require further research, the study’s authors concluded.
Anxiety, gender, and sexuality
Concerns relating to gender and sexual identities and stigmatization can cause anxiety for many people.
In addition, bisexual people may experience anxiety at a higher rate than gay and lesbian people, according to a
For transgender people, gender dysphoria can be a cause of anxiety — as can systemic stigma and marginalization.
Anxiety and race
Systemic racism leads to psychological distress. The American Psychological Association (APA) lists socioeconomic deprivation and racial discrimination as two major components of this.
Worry about the state of the environment can also cause anxiety, and this is sometimes called “eco-anxiety.” The APA describes eco-anxiety as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.”
Eco-anxiety is not yet a diagnosable condition. While its prevalence is still unknown, a survey-based 2018 study found that 70% of respondents in the U.S. are worried about climate change, and around 51% feel “helpless” about the current situation.
A range of genetic factors may influence a person’s tendency to feel anxious. These may vary among age groups, demographics, and genders.
Many things related to health can cause anxiety. For example, anxiety may stem from an underlying medical condition or a side effect of a medication.
These factors may not directly cause the changes that characterize specific anxiety disorders, but they can cause situations or require lifestyle adjustments that trigger feelings of anxiety.
Recreational drug use can cause feelings of anxiety. However, the relationship between drug use and anxiety is complex.
For example, a
A person who has persistent, severe anxiety may receive a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. First, a medical professional does a physical assessment.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 3.6% of the global population had an anxiety disorder in 2015. This percentage is typically higher among women. In the Americas, as many as 7.7% of women have an anxiety disorder, compared with 3.6% of men, the WHO reports.
There are several anxiety disorders, including general anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. These differ from general feelings of anxiety in their frequency, severity, and impact on the quality of life.
An anxiety disorder can be difficult to distinguish from other mental health conditions. Before making a diagnosis, a mental health professional reviews a person’s history and performs a detailed assessment. They may also recommend or provide treatment.
Also, a physician may perform a physical exam and order lab tests. This is to rule out other conditions that might be causing the symptoms.
Anxiety is a natural, necessary emotion, and it has many causes, such as stress, fear of negative responses in social situations, environmental concerns, and systemic marginalization.
Anxiety and anxiety disorders are not the same. A mental health professional will take into account the frequency and severity of anxiety and the results of various detailed assessments before diagnosing an anxiety disorder.