Anxiety disorders occur when someone regularly feels a disproportionate level of anxiety, distress, worry or fear to their surroundings.
There are many causes of anxiety disorder and some are very complex. However, some of the more common risk factors that can lead to anxiety attacks or disorder are:
Elements in the environment around you can affect your anxiety levels, both in the emotional and physical environment. If you are around a situation or people that are anxious or stressful, this can build and add to your anxiety. Equally being in areas of higher altitude with low-oxygen levels can trigger anxiety symptoms, as you can get the feeling of being unable to breathe.
It has been shown that if you have family members who suffer from an anxiety disorder, you are more likely to suffer from the same anxiety problems.
You may find that your anxiety is linked to an underlying health issue. It has been seen that anxiety signs and symptoms, maybe the first indicators of a medical illness.
Some of the medical illnesses that may be related to anxiety are:
- Heart diseases
- Respiratory problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma
- Chronic pain
- Thyroid problems
A traumatic event as a child, or even as an adult, can lead to anxiety and continued anxiety even after the event has ended.
Children who have endured abuse as a child is at a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder at some stage in their lives.
Stress due to illness
Having a health condition, or having a close family member with an illness, can lead to significant worry and anxiety about the condition and what the future holds.
Stress builds up
Continual stress can build up and lead to anxiety issues. Small stressful events such as work stress, financial stress or worries over family can build up and lead to an anxiety disorder.
It has been shown that certain personality types are more susceptible to developing anxiety disorders than others.
Other mental health disorders
If you have other mental health disorders, such as depression, you are more likely to have an anxiety disorder as well.
Withdrawal of illicit substances
If you are withdrawing from drugs or alcohol, you may experience symptoms of anxiety as your body starts to crave or wean off the substances.
Use of illicit substances
Use drugs or alcohol can lead to feelings of anxiety as everyone has different side effects on different substances.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, some may not be listed here but the more common disorders are shown below.
This is a type of anxiety disorder where you fear places or situations that may cause you to panic and feel embarrassed, trapped or helpless.
Generalized anxiety disorder
This includes persistent and excessive anxiety about ordinary and routine events or activities. The worry is not in proportion to the circumstances, but it is difficult to control and may result in physical feelings of shortness of breath or sweating.
This can involve repeated attacks of sudden intense feelings of fear, worry, or terror that can peak quite quickly, within minutes. This can result in feelings of chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, or heart palpitations. You end up worrying about these panic attacks happening again and trying to avoid situations where you fear they may occur again.
If you suffer from phobia disorder, you may experience irrational fear that may arise to panic attack level about a specific situation or thing. Some examples are fears of spiders, closed-in spaces, open spaces, air travel or heights.
Those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder either internalize it and suffer from intrusive or distressing thoughts (obsessive), or they externalize it and engage in repetitive behaviors (compulsive). Some examples of obsessions are worrying about germs or having things in a set order. Some compulsions you may suffer from are counting items or activities; avoiding walking on cracks or avoiding touching things like doorknobs.
Social anxiety disorder
This involves high levels of anxiety, fear and sometimes avoidance of social situations. You may fear the feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness or concern about being judged. You may avoid these social situations completely to avoid any chance of feeling like this.
If you have an anxiety disorder, it can lead to more than just worry and fear. It can worsen, or lead to, certain conditions such as: depression; substance misuse; insomnia or trouble sleeping; headaches and chronic pain; social isolation; problems functioning at school or at work; digestive or bowel problems; poor quality of life and even suicide.
But here is help available and many treatment options to help you with this.
Looking after yourself
There is no way to predict who will develop symptoms of anxiety, but if you find that you more anxious than usual, please take the steps to look after yourself.
- Ask for help early – it has been shown that anxiety, like many other mental health problems, can be harder to treat if you wait. Whether this is asking for help from close friends or family, or seeing a qualified person to help you, either way is a step forward in looking after yourself.
- Avoid drug and alcohol use – both of these can worsen your anxiety.
- Stay active- exercise has been shown to improve feelings of anxiety, as well as interacting with people is also able to help with feeling of anxiety.
If you feel that even with trying to look after yourself, you are still feeling anxious and it feels like it is not improving, then it is best to speak to someone and seek treatment at The Center • A Place of HOPE to talk to someone who cares and who is trained to be able to help you.
If you have any more questions about anxiety please look at our FAQs page to find more answers that you need.