The Causes of Anxiety

The Causes of Anxiety

What are the most common causes of anxiety?

Anxiety is a response to uncertainty and danger, and the trigger can be almost anything, or nothing in particular, just a generalized, vague sense of dread or misfortune. High on the list of anxiety-generating situations is having to give a talk or presentation or being called on in class, where people risk loss of social standing by being judged negatively.

People can feel anxious because their neural circuitry has become so sensitized it perceives threat where it doesn’t exist. Too, there are substances—caffeine is one—and medications that stimulate the same physical sensations as anxiety. People differ in their susceptibility to anxiety, as a result of their biological makeup, their parental inheritance, their own life history, personality factors, and the coping skills they acquire or cultivate.

Can stress bring on anxiety?

Anxiety and stress are intimately related; anxiety is a reaction to stress. Anxiety is the name we give to the internal sensations of warning generated by the body’s reaction to a mental or physical threat. The sensations are set in motion by the stress response (or fight-or-flight) system, whose job is to alert us to and protect us from danger. Without waiting for us to make a conscious assessment of any danger, it swiftly sends out chemical warning signals, such as cortisol and adrenaline, to various organs. The physical discomfort of anxiety is like a bodyguard; its job is to protect us by jolting us into action. But it can persist and, by altering the function of neural circuits in the brain, overwhelm the ability to exert rational control.


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