It might be easier to ask, what doesn’t cause anxiety? You see, anxiety is a natural, normal, and inevitable response to being alive. However, in everyday conversation, the word is used to describe a form of distress. In psychology terms, it is the name of a diagnosable disorder. Thus, for the purposes of this post, we are exploring the underlying causes of the most common mental health condition in the world.
All of these clarifications are important. To avoid and/or address the negative impacts of anxiety, it helps to understand the concept. With that in mind, let’s start with the basics.
Why Anxiety Exists
Our brains are hard-wired to keep us safe and alive. If danger is sensed, it causes us to feel fear. In a state of fear, we are more likely to take the actions necessary to protect ourselves. At other times, our brains sense the presence of a possible or anticipated threat. It’s not life-or-death as in the fear response. In such a case, we are wired to feel anxiety.
Back in earlier human days, it would likely work to your advantage to be prone to anxiety. In fact, we are here because we probably had ancestors who might be considered “jumpy” today.
What Causes Anxiety in the Modern World?
Present-day humans still rely on their fear response to survive and thrive. We can all be thankful for that. The anxiety trigger is a different story. Life remains hard but, for the majority of people, it’s much easier than it once was. The trick is that our physiology hasn’t changed. Our wiring is still designed to protect us — even if many of the dangers no longer exist.
We may be triggered by something like a fear of failure or looking foolish in front of peers. A job interview or a first date may feel like a charging predator did 10,000 years ago. Remember, your body can’t tell the difference. If your brain sends it into fight-or-flight, the reaction is the same.
We live in the digital age but still have Stone Age biology. In a time of social media and smartphones, individuals encounter a whole new range of fears and doubts. In addition, they tend to be isolated more often than previous generations.
How Does Anxiety Become a Disorder?
When we get caught up in a cycle of trigger and response, we can get stuck in fight-or-flight mode. We temporarily lose the capacity to differentiate between real and perceived risks. In the name of protecting us, our body stays on high alert — pumping stress hormones into our bloodstream. This unsustainable scenario is usually the foundation of an anxiety disorder. There are several types of these disorders and symptoms can vary. However, some common signs exist.
Common Anxiety Symptoms
- Sweating and flushing
- Trembling body and shaky voice
- Unexplained body aches, pains, and tension
- Sleep disturbances
- Digestive issues
- Racing thoughts, inability to focus
- Irritability and anger
- Feeling out of control
- Awkwardness in social settings
- Specific phobias
- Difficulty with daily functioning
The first step is to do precisely what you’re doing right now. Self-educate and empower yourself with knowledge. The more you comprehend your experiences, the better you can manage them. Anxiety can be addressed from multiple angles. Self-help steps are crucial, e.g. self-care, meditation, relaxation techniques, and more. But this must be accompanied by speaking with a professional.
I’ve worked with countless people who have struggled with different forms and levels of anxiety. Therapy is a proven path toward healing and recovery. If you’d like to experience relief, I invite you to reach out to set up a free consultation.