An anxiety or panic attack is an extremely frightening experience. Even though you’re not in immediate danger, it feels like you are. The sense of impending doom is challenging to shake. The experience of a panic attack is so unpleasant that it often causes anxiety that another one happens at an inopportune time.
However, worrying about another panic attack can make one even more likely. If you have a serious panic or anxiety disorder, you may feel caught in a trap until you receive help. There are things you can do to lower your chance of experiencing anxiety and panic triggers.
However, some anxiety issues aren’t triggered by anything in particular. Whether your anxiety is linked to clear triggers or unclear causes, it’s important to reach out for help when you need it. If anxiety symptoms are severe or persistent, they may not go away without help, even if you do identify your triggers. That being said, here are some common causes and triggers for anxiety disorders and panic attacks.
What Causes An Anxiety Disorder?
Like other mental health issues, the exact cause of anxiety disorders isn’t fully understood. It’s likely that anxiety is caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment, and developmental factors. Genetics can mean your brain is wired to be more susceptible to anxiety.
You may find that your anxiety symptoms are similar to the ones experienced by your immediate family members. Genetics may be one of the biggest influences behind certain mental health issues like anxiety, and it could explain why people that go through similar stressful experiences sometimes don’t have the same experience with anxiety.
Environmental factors may also play a role in causing anxiety issues. For instance, people with high stress often have an increased likelihood of experiencing an anxiety disorder. In fact, people with high-stress jobs are much more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder that can cause panic attacks.
The reasons you may have an anxiety disorder may be difficult to pinpoint. It’s unlikely that you’ll find one definitive cause, and it’s more likely that your anxiety comes from a variety of issues. However, it may be easier to find specific things in your life that trigger and worsen your anxiety.
What Are Common Triggers Of Anxiety Attacks?
The first thing to note when answering this question is that it’s important to realize that your anxiety attacks may not have a specific trigger at all. Panic attacks can happen for no external reason. In many cases, a panic disorder starts with one panic attack that causes anxiety that another one will happen. Sometimes looking for specific reasons that a panic attack occurred can lead to more anxiety. In fact, it can lead to avoidance, which is a common consequence of ongoing panic disorders.
You may start avoiding places, people, and situations where you experienced an anxiety attack, which can start to significantly hinder your life. Before you explore triggers, it’s important to recognize that the point is to learn to cope with them effectively, not to avoid places and things that would otherwise be necessary or beneficial in your life.
That being said, there are a few common thoughts, circumstances, and simulations that are associated with anxiety issues.
Sometimes anxious causes come from within, not from external sources. You may be lying in bed, and a thought pops into your head about all the work you need to do tomorrow. You may feel overwhelmed at daunting tasks as you remember even more. As the minutes tick away, you may start worrying about the fact that you won’t get enough sleep to take on the next day’s challenges.
Anxious thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere are very common. Treatment can help you learn to deal with these thoughts as much as triggers that come from your environment. In fact, it may be most important to learn to cope with triggers that can’t be avoided, like your own thoughts.
Worrying about health is common for people who have anxiety and panic attacks. These thoughts may be caused by a concerning medical test, a challenging diagnosis, or some uncomfortable symptoms. If you’re having anxiety based on medical issues, consult with your doctor. If you go through tests and learn more about your health, it may alleviate some anxiety.
Even if you receive a life-changing diagnosis, being proactive about your health may change your outlook for the better, which could alleviate some anxiety symptoms. If you speak to a doctor and go through medical tests and still feel anxiety when it comes to your health, you may need to speak to a doctor or clinician about how you can better manage your anxiety disorder.
A wide variety of medications can affect your brain and body in a way that triggers or worsens your anxiety symptoms. Many prescription-strength drugs can lead to lethargy, restlessness, and other issues that could set off your anxiety. Psychostimulant medications could directly cause increased energy levels, racing thoughts, insomnia, and anxiety.
Even some over-the-counter medications could cause you to feel anxious. Drugs that manipulate certain hormones, like birth control pills, could trigger anxiety. Weight loss medications and drugs to help ease congestion or coughs can also cause anxiety.
Illicit Or Recreational Drugs
Several illicit drugs can cause anxiety directly or cause symptoms that trigger anxiety. Stimulants like cocaine and meth increase nervous system activity, which can cause anxiety and other mental health-related symptoms. Psychedelic drugs and marijuana are also known to cause anxious thoughts and paranoia during unpleasant trips. Central nervous system depressants like alcohol and prescription drugs like benzodiazepines can cause anxiety if you go through withdrawal.
The term “hangry” sounds like it’s just the way food lovers react to hunger, but there’s some science behind food’s effect on your mood. Skipping meals or eating a diet that’s low in nutritional value can affect both your mind and your body. If you miss a meal or two, your blood sugar can drop, which can cause restlessness, shaky hands, and irritability that you may associate with anxiety disorders and panic attacks.
Balanced meals can have a positive effect on your mood and the way you feel daily. Nutrition can also increase your energy levels, which can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed in the face of challenges. On the other hand, poor nutrition can make you feel weak and tired. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed or anxious when you’re met with challenges throughout the day.
Some vitamin deficiencies can also cause symptoms that can affect your mental health. A Vitamin B12 deficiency can make you feel weak and affect your memory. A lack of Vitamin D can also have some mild effects like fatigue.
Sleep is a huge factor in your mental health, and it can also affect your physical health as well. Sleep problems and anxiety often happen together. When your mind is racing, you may have trouble falling asleep, and nightmares can disturb your sleep in the middle of the night.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a third of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of sleep each night. A lack of sleep can cause concentration issues, low energy levels, and low mood.
You may be prone to making more little mistakes throughout the day, which can lead to problems completing tasks at work, home, or school. Chronic sleep issues can lead to weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. While anxiety issues can cause you to lose sleep, a lack of sleep can also worsen your anxiety. Getting enough sleep on a consistent sleep schedule can significantly improve the way you feel. You can also speak to your doctor about how you can get a better handle on your sleep issues.
If you attend therapy for an anxiety disorder, you may end up discussing your thinking and the way you cope from day to day. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most commonly used psychotherapy options for mental and behavioral health issues. In CBT and other forms of talk therapy, you’ll examine how your thoughts and behaviors can influence your mental health issues. Negative thoughts can significantly impact your outlook and the way you cope with triggers and challenges. Negative thinking and self-talk can worsen your mood and trigger anxiety.
Humans are social creatures. We’ve adapted to put a lot of weight on social interactions. We want to be liked and to be impressive, but that’s not always what happens when we meet and talk to other people. For many, large groups, new people, and uncomfortable social situations are a major trigger for anxiety. There are even separate anxiety disorders that describe anxiety around social settings like social phobia or social anxiety disorder.
What Causes Anxiety?
If you’ve ever wondered what causes anxiety, you’re not alone. While anxiety attacks are one thing, long-term anxiety can be debilitating and affect you more than an attack. So, what causes anxiety attacks? Well, anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of worrying thoughts, tension, and physical changes, such as an increase in blood pressure. If you have anxiety, you likely experience recurring intrusive thoughts and concerns, avoid situations out of fear, and experience trembling, dizziness, sweating, or a rapid heartbeat during an attack.
Everyone experiences anxiety differently, and it’s often a challenge to pinpoint specific triggers for anxiety. There are various factors involved and many reasons for anxiety attacks. One such example is a person who had difficulties in their childhood, teen years, or adulthood – these are the most common anxiety attack triggers. Enduring trauma or stress when you’re young can also significantly impact your life moving forward. The most common anxiety triggers include the following:
- Parents or caretakers who neglect children often endure anxiety problems
- Physical or emotional abuse is a common trigger for anxiety
- Losing your mother or father can cause severe anxiety problems
- Getting bullied or being excluded socially by friends or peers are triggers for anxiety
- Experiencing racism can also cause children or adults to develop anxiety issues
One such factor that many adults report later in life is having parents who don’t treat them warmly. However, overprotective parents can also cause these issues. Being a parent isn’t easy, so for some parents, it’s a fine line between being cold and overbearing. However, knowing these problems can cause severe anxiety problems later in life should be enough for parents to put in an effort.
While a lot of anxiety stems from childhood, you can have the best upbringing and still fall victim to this condition. Unfortunately, if you’re experiencing hardships in life, you can become anxious. Current life problems are anxiety triggers, which include the following:
- Working extra hours to pay the bills
- Feeling exhausted, a buildup of stress that you can’t relieve in a healthy manner
- A lot of change around you – a feeling of uncertainty
- Enduring extreme pressure when studying in college or at work
- Losing your job and experiencing long-term unemployment
- Having problems with money – an inability to pay your bills on time or buy food regularly
- Losing your home – becoming homeless
- Worrying about natural disasters, global pandemics, or the environment
- Losing a friend, family member, or pet that was close to you, sometimes called bereavement
- Feeling extremely isolated or loneliness
- Getting abused by a loved one, strangers, or experiencing racism
Significant changes to your daily routine can also be a trigger for anxiety. Many people report experiencing changes in their anxiety levels after the COVID-19 pandemic. The uncertainty and strict lockdowns were enough to trigger many people, and it’s possible your mental health could have been affected.
If you’ve experienced new physical or mental health problems, it could also be a cause of your anxiety. Sometimes, you can wake up with an unknown illness you’ve never experienced before, and it can have a damaging impact on your life. In addition to this mysterious illness, you can also become fraught with anxiety. In some cases, the anxiety can worsen the condition or vice versa. Living with a serious, ongoing, or life-threatening physical health condition can impact anxiety levels. If you’ve been depressed, anxiety will also play a role.
Anxiety is a serious condition that may not have a cause. Sometimes, it just occurs, and it feels like there’s nothing we can do. Fortunately, medication and therapy can help calm your nerves. If you’ve been experiencing significant bouts of anxiety, it’s time to speak with your doctor.