What Causes Anxiety? Your Complete Guide to Anxiety Triggers

Despite the fact that 40 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders, anxiety doesn’t have an easily traceable cause. Like many mental health issues, anxiety is still something that is being figured out.

But there are several theories on how and why anxiety disorders come about. By having a better understanding of where anxiety comes from, you can learn the root cause of your anxiety and yank it out.

Read on to untangle the mystery of anxiety triggers and how you can beat anxiety once and for all.

The Multiple Sources of Anxiety

A wide array of phenomena contributes to feelings of anxiety, including changes in brain chemistry, environmental stressors, genetics, and hormonal changes.

Brain composition and genetics are the biggest contributing factors to developing anxiety disorders. Your genetic predisposition has a major influence on the severity of anxiety symptoms and your chances of developing associated mental health conditions.

The genetic issues that contribute to anxiety are usually associated with poorly performing hormone messengers in your brain, called neurotransmitters. For those with “anxious genes,” neurotransmitters overreact, making you 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 mental health conditions. A family history of anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic attacks increases chances you’ll develop these yourself.

Anxiety is also linked to mental health issues provoked by environmental conditions. For example, those who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder find that social situations trigger anxiety. This means that meeting new people can cause Social Anxiety Disorder sufferers to withdraw and avoid new situations. People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder often have a hard time understanding from where their worries arise. Worries seem to come from everywhere.

Anxiety can also manifest itself in phobias. A phobia is to a fear as anaphylaxis is to an allergy. Someone with a phobia will change their lives to avoid encountering the thing they fear.

Researchers have identified factors and situations that act as common triggers of anxious reactions or aggravate existing anxiety disorders. Here’s a closer look at some of the most common anxiety triggers:

Career and Work

Your Complete Guide to Anxiety TriggersWork-related worries are one of the most common causes of anxiety. More than half of the participants in a workplace stress study reported suffering from worries about their job. The job market is competitive, and there is increasing pressure to perform well or risk losing your job. Common causes of workplace anxiety include apprehension about performance, perception by coworkers, and having a good relationship with the boss.


Anxiety due to school is a very common source of anxiety, especially for the younger generation. From small children to young adults, stress due to school can impact a student’s ability to succeed in school. From worrying about performing well on tests to dealing with difficult teachers, student experience anxiety from a variety of sources. Things can get even worse if there due to strained social interactions at school. For example, students might be having difficulty making friends or experience bullying. The combined pressures of performing well and navigating through social situations can make merely the thought of going to class an anxiety trigger.


Complete Guide to Anxiety TriggersFinances cause major disruptions in people’s lives. It’s one of the most common reasons for divorce. The younger generation reports that finances are a major source of stress in their lives. Even those with sufficient funds can worry about finances. For example, those who come from a family that often worried about having enough money might carry a mindset of money scarcity. With growing costs of living and the average amount of debt per household going up each year, it’s hard to find a person who isn’t worried about money.

Medical Conditions

A Complete Guide to Anxiety TriggersMany people report feeling anxious due to illnesses. Those who suffer from chronic conditions can feel anxious about how their disease will affect their ability to live their lives normally.

Relationship Problems

What Causes Anxiety? Complete Guide to Anxiety TriggersBeing 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. Tension with family members also fits into this category. Problems with your parents or your children can wear down your life satisfaction and sense of calm. Due to the more permanent nature of these relationships, problems with family can cause a long-term anxiety.

Being In Public

What Causes Anxiety? A Complete Guide to Anxiety TriggersFear of being out in public is known as agoraphobia. Not everyone has this fear, but for some, being in public can be an anxiety trigger. When not treated properly, this fear can cause people to become a recluse and lose their connection with the world around them.

The News

Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, there’s always something to worry about. From earthquakes to crazy politicians, a brief news check can open a torrent of worry into your life.

Other Phobias

What Causes Anxiety? Your Guide to Anxiety TriggersCommon phobias include arachnophobia (fear of spiders), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), and acrophobia (fear of heights). People with intense phobias will do everything they can to avoid any situation in which they will encounter their fear and have their anxiety triggered. This can sometimes lead to lowered quality of life, as a person’s ability to move through life is impeded.

Anxiety Due to Feeling Anxious

What Causes Anxiety? A Guide to Anxiety TriggersMany 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 toxic, circular pattern of anxiety and stress.

Things That Worsen Anxiety

Along with causes of anxiety, there are several factors that can aggravate pre-existing anxiety disorders. Here are the main conditions that can worsen your anxiety if and when it is triggered:

Poor Sleep

When it comes to poor sleep and anxiety, the order of causation is unclear. Does anxiety cause sleeping issues, or do sleeping issues lead to anxiety? Either way, tackling unhealthy sleeping habits helps prevent and treat anxiety. When you are well-rested, your brain has more energy to deal rationally with whichever anxiety triggers you might come across during your waking hours.

Poor Diet

The food you eat has an important effect on your ability to manage anxiety.

  • Caffeine’s stimulating properties can worsen feelings of distress, and help to feed underlying anxiety.
  • A diet low in nutrients can sap energy levels, making it harder to manage stress.
  • Drinking alcohol is a common tactic people use to manage their stress. However, it merely coats the symptoms, comes in the way of recuperative sleep, and can lead to a harmful dependence.

How to Deal With Anxiety Triggers

Anxiety triggers are most commonly dealt with through avoidance, but this isn’t ideal. Instead, learn to manage your overall stress levels and manage anxiety triggers in your life so that they no longer have a negative effect on you.

What Causes Anxiety? Your Full Guide to Anxiety TriggersThe first step to any anxiety management effort is to incorporate daily stress reduction tactics into your routine. There are a variety of effective stress reduction techniques, including:

  • Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise is an excellent way to manage stress and improve overall health. Get started with yoga or running.
  • Meditation: Meditation is a great way to learn to deal with anxious thoughts as they arise. Jump into meditation with our helpful list of recorded guided meditations.
  • Breathing exercises: When encountering anxiety triggers, a few deep breaths may be all you need to stay calm. Upgrade your deep breathing with our list of 6 best breathing exercises for stress relief.
  • Sleep: Sleep should be the core of your stress reduction routine. If you’re having trouble consistently getting enough sleep, it’s time to fix your sleep cycle.
  • Spire: The Spire wearable technology was specifically created to help anxiety sufferers get a better handle on their symptoms. The device tracks your breathing and identifies when your anxiety levels are high. When you are notified of your times of tension, you can take a moment to step back. Making a conscious choice to take a timeout when your stress levels are getting too high can help prevent anxiety attacks and help you learn to manage the overall anxiety in your life.

Learning which triggers cause anxiety in your life is the first step to returning to a state of calm. Were you in a stressful work situation where you were worried about your performance? Were you on crowded public transit? Identify times of tension to help you identify some of your anxiety triggers. This can help you get to a point where you can start curing your anxiety and enhancing your well-being.

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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.


Anxiety, Breathing

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