What Causes Anxiety? Your Complete Guide to Anxiety Triggers

You may be here because you want to know why you are anxious, and rather than simply treating the symptoms, you want to know the root cause of your anxiety and yank it out. Unfortunately, despite the fact that 40 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders, anxiety doesn’t have an easily traceable cause.

However, the medical community at large has many ideas about why anxiety disorders come about.

Anxiety Comes From Multiple Sources

Scientists believe that a wide array of things contribute to overwhelming feelings of anxiety. Some of these include brain chemistry, environmental stressors, genetics, and hormonal changes.

Brain composition and genetics are possibly the biggest factors that contribute to anxiety disorders and have a major effect on the severity of your anxiety symptoms. If your neurotransmitters are malfunctioning, your brain will be affected by making your feel more anxious in normal situations. If your parents or other people in your family suffer from anxiety, chances are that you are predisposed towards anxiety as well.

Those who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) are likely to experience symptoms in social situations. Being afraid that others might judge you, or worrying so much about meeting new people can make SAD sufferers withdraw and avoid new situations.

People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) often have a hard time understand where their worries come from. There might be visible anxiety triggers, or worries might seem to come from nowhere. They tend to expect the worst to happen and can’t stop asking “what if” questions.

Anxiety can also manifest itself in intense and specific phobias. Having a phobia isn’t like just being afraid of spiders or worrying about a test the next day. A phobia is to a fear as anaphylaxis is to an allergy – someone with a phobia will go out of their to change their life so that they won’t have a chance of encountering the thing they fear.

Anxiety Triggers

Even though there aren’t always cut and dry causes of anxiety, many doctors and scientists have identified factors and situations that commonly trigger anxious reactions, or aggravate existing anxiety disorders.

Work and Career

Work related worries are perhaps one of the most common causes of anxiety. More than half of the participants in a workplace anxiety study reported suffering from worries about their job. With the increasing pressure to perform exceptionally well and find jobs that pay the bills and then some, it’s no wonder that people are stressed by their jobs. Common causes of workplace anxiety include worrying about performance, being seen in a positive light by coworkers, and having a good relationship with a boss.


Being anxious because of school is also one of the most common sources of anxiety. From affecting small children to young adults trying to make their way through college, school worries can seriously impact a person’s ability to cope. From worrying about performing well on tests to dealing with difficult teachers, there are many factors at school that can cause severe anxiety. If there is any bullying going on at school, or someone is having difficulty making friends, that person can feel anxious about the mere thought of going.


Many adults feel like finances are the bane of their existence. In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons for divorce. Those who come from a family that often worried about having enough money can enter a mindset of money scarcity, no matter what the real situation looks like. With growing costs of living and the average amount of debt per household going up each year, it’s hard to not worry about money.

Medical Factors

Some medical conditions create the perfect environment for anxiety to thrive, and many unwell people report feeling anxious because of their illnesses. Most commonly, those who suffer from chronic conditions can feel anxious about how their disease will affect their ability to live their lives. They might worry about missing out due to feeling unwell, worry about how others may view their illness, or worry about dying.


Being in a relationship can bring a lot of joy, but it can also bring a lot of fear. Worries about whether your partner will accept you if you change or if they will support your decisions can lead to chronic anxiety. Many times, people worry about their partner not liking them anymore or moving on to be with someone else. While thinking these things isn’t uncommon, worrying about them to the point of debilitating anxiety simply isn’t healthy.

Being in Public

Being outside or being in a situation where you feel like you can’t get out can cause intense anxiety. Also known as agoraphobia, being in public can cause many anxiety sufferers severe distress. The fear of being trapped or put in a position of powerlessness has led to people avoiding going outside, and when not treated properly, people can become shut ins and lose their connection with the world around them.

News & Politics

With the invention of the 24 hour news cycle, there’s always something to worry about. From earthquakes to politicians who do things we don’t agree with, it seems like just the act of going online can bring a torrent of vitriol into our lives. When you start to get obsessed with all of the bad things going on in the news and use it as an excuse to believe that catastrophes are bound to happen, your anxiety has gotten the best of you.


Phobia related anxiety happens when sufferers are exposed to their phobias. This can be some of the most severe anxiety reaction, as the fear response and flight or flight reflex kicks in. People with intense phobias will do everything they can to avoid any situation in which their fear might rear its head. This can prevent them from going about and living their life in many ways. Common phobias include arachnophobia (fear of spiders), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), and acrophobia (fear of heights).

Things that Worsen Anxiety

william randles 283237

Along with causes of anxiety, there are several factors that can aggravate pre-existing anxiety disorders. While some of these are avoidable and treatable, others are related to an individual’s brain chemistry.

Poor Sleep

Sleep and anxiety have a difficult relationship. No one is sure whether anxiety causes sleeping issues, or if sleeping issues lead to anxiety. Getting a good night’s sleep helps your brain stay refreshed, and gives you more energy to think through situations where you might feel anxious, or come across anxiety triggers.


Sometimes stressful situations come up in life that just can’t be avoided. However, chronic or severe acute stress can lead to anxiety. If you find yourself in a stressful situation, try a few stress management techniques to help you reduce your overall stress level, and keep anxiety at bay.


Getting a cold or the flu can cause anyone to feel a little anxious. Whether you worry about being able to recover, or worry about lost work or school, getting sick is a common source of anxiety. Chronic illness can also contribute to longer lasting anxiety, as sufferers can become hopeless or worried that they’ll never get better.

Poor Diet

The food you eat could be causing your anxiety. If you have any nutrient deficiencies, they can manifest as heightened levels of stress and worry. Caffeine’s stimulating properties can also worsen feelings of distress, and create anxiety where previously there were no symptoms of it. Sweets are also a stimulating substance, and can cause tension and physical symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety About Being Anxious

Many patients feel anxious about being anxious. They worry about whether anxiety symptoms will show up again, and they worry about how others will view them during times of high anxiety. This can lead to people avoiding situations where they have previously felt anxious, or feeling worried all the time that they might start exhibiting anxiety symptoms. This leads to a never ending cycle of constant anxiety.

Brain Chemistry and Anxiety

Sometimes the biggest factor that contributes to anxiety is something that can’t be fixed by lifestyle changes. Genetics and brain chemistry contribute to what kind of anxiety someone experiences, and how intense their symptoms are at any given moment.

Anxiety can be hereditary, but exhibits differently for each individual. It can be hard to tell if you or your family member suffer from anxiety, as they could manifest in several different ways. If you know of some relatives who suffer from anxiety, then you are more predisposed to be anxious. Along with traditional anxiety disorders, anxiety can manifest as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and body focused repetitive behaviors.

If you have any chemical imbalances in your brain, chances are pretty high that you have an anxiety disorder. Most of the time, this results from problems with the neurotransmitters in your brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals your brain uses to relay messages between neurons.

What to Do About Your Anxiety

Knowing all of the ways anxiety can affect you might be overwhelming. It can feel like nothing you do will help your anxiety or make it more bearable. Spire was specifically created to help anxiety sufferers get a better handle on their symptoms.

The device tracks your breathing to help you identify times of calm and times of tension. When you are notified of your times of tension, you can take a moment to step back and see what caused you to feel this way. Were you in a stressful work situation where you were worried about your performance? Were you on crowded public transit? Identifying times of tension can help you identify some of your anxiety triggers, and help you get to a point where you can start treating your anxiety and start living your life again.

About the Author

Posted by

Spire is dedicated to helping you live a happier, healthier lifestyle with an easy-to-use device for mindful breathing techniques. Learn more about the benefits of breath-tracking at Spire.io.

Add a Response

Your name, email address, and comment are required. We will not publish your email.

The following HTML tags can be used in the comment field: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>