If you or a loved one are among the many people who struggle with an anxiety disorder, you may be wondering what caused it. Researchers continue to explore what contributes to anxiety becoming overwhelming for some people. We do know that several factors play a role, and for some people, there is a combination of issues that contribute to their anxiety.

Family History

If you have a blood relative who has struggled with anxiety, you are more likely to develop it. If anxiety disorders run in your family, you may have already seen the pattern. That is why it's important to tell your doctor about conditions like this when discussing family health history.

History of Trauma

Trauma leaves a lasting impression on our brains. People who have experienced a traumatic event, such as child abuse or exposure to violence, are at increased risk of developing an anxiety-related condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

The anxiety response is, at first, the brain's way of protecting you in a time of crisis. It's natural to feel fearful, panicked, or hypervigilant during a time of danger. Sometimes, this response persists long after the threat has subsided.

Therapists and healthcare professionals who work with trauma patients often use techniques to retrain the brain to respond differently to stress triggers and to regulate the anxiety response.

Substance Use Problems

The misuse or overuse of alcohol or drugs can cause neurological changes in the brain that may trigger or intensify anxiety. At the same time, it can be a motivating factor in substance use. For example, a person may have a drink to calm down when they feel anxious, which can lead to chronic use if feelings of anxiety are frequent. 

On the flipside, abruptly stopping the use of alcohol or drugs can also trigger anxiety. So, it's best for people with substance use disorders to work with healthcare professionals when trying to stop using.

Overexposure to Stress

Those who are regularly exposed to high levels of emotional, psychological, or physical stress are more likely to show symptoms of anxiety. The pressure can come from a variety of sources -- your job or employment situation, financial stress, relationship or family dynamics, overextending yourself in social situations, or even the stress of being socially isolated. A therapist can help you identify stress triggers and create a strategy to manage them.

Other Mental Illnesses

People who have other mental health conditions often find that they go hand-in-hand with anxiety. For example, a person with depression is more likely to have an anxiety disorder than someone who isn't depressed. 

If you are living with anxiety, it's important to talk with your Confidant provider about what you're experiencing, so they can pinpoint the cause and help you get treatment.