• Theo

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety is becoming an increasingly common term used in almost everyday language. Years ago, it was something a bit mysterious but now, practically everyone is familiar with the concept but still, the question is asked, what causes anxiety?



First, it helps to know exactly what anxiety is. Basically, it’s your brain/body’s response to a threat. Fight or flight mode. Every living being has it as it’s a tool necessary for survival. Anxiety is a signal that enables your body to run away or fight whatever threat your brain has identified. That’s why anxiety comes with so many physical symptoms as it is a physical reaction to something. Anxiety isn’t just a thought.


Once we understand that, there’s a very simplistic answer to the question “what causes anxiety?”. A threat. Anxiety is triggered when our brain perceives a threat. Sounds simple right? Well, as we have evolved as a species, the threats we now experience aren’t always physical which means they don’t require a physical response.


Threats now include: losing a job, having no income, losing your home, a relationship break down, failing exams, etc. These are all negative things (at least at the outset) that impact your life in a big way, so it’s natural to feel anxious about them. However, these aren’t physical threats to your life. Failing an exam may mean not going to the school you want or even getting the job you want, but that doesn’t mean your life will end. Our brains don’t know that though. So it responds in the same way as it would to a physical threat.


Anxiety disorders are a slightly different thing. Anxiety disorders are when your anxiety response is triggered by something that isn’t a threat at all, like being in a cinema for example. This can come from a variety of things like being overwhelmed or major life changes. There’s a video on what causes anxiety disorders here: https://youtu.be/4Fjiv1IlKDw


Another potential cause of anxiety can be your surrounding situation, including the people in it. If people around you are scared, anxious, or angry, you are likely to pick up on it, or at least your subconscious will. That can then trigger anxiety. We are social creatures and although we can communicate verbally, we don’t need to in order to understand how we are feeling. Sometimes staying away from certain situations or certain people will cause your anxiety to subside. This is often the case for people who can’t pinpoint what is triggering their anxiety.


Ultimately, anxiety comes from stress or fear. When we are put into stressful situations, we feel anxious. Anxiety is perfectly normal but it’s not a particularly pleasant feeling. There are a few things you can do to ease anxiety:

  • Plan something relaxing every day

  • Spend time outside every day

  • Do some exercise every day

  • Have a good bedtime routine

  • Take regular breaks during the working day

  • Spend time with other people


If you’re feeling anxious, try to pinpoint where the stress is coming from. If you can, remove it. That may mean confronting somebody, or it could just mean taking a break from everything for a couple of days. The earlier you address it, the less likely it’ll manifest into a long-term problem.


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