Nobody goes through life without feeling anxious from time to time. Life is full of ups and downs and feeling nervous or restless when faced with difficult situations is completely normal. But when you are feeling like that constantly and for no apparent reason, it may be the case that you have an anxiety disorder.
There are several types varying from mild to severe. In fact, some can be so severe that they hamper the quality of life. But what causes anxiety disorder? This is a common question that many ask. It is also natural to question why some people are affected while others are not.
Why Do Anxiety Disorders Occur?
It is thought that an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that leads to conditions such as anxiety. The brain releases many chemicals needed for normal physiological functioning. Some of these chemicals are classed as excitatory while others are inhibitory. When there are not enough inhibitory chemicals, an imbalance can occur which then leads to feelings of nervousness, restlessness, and anxiety. Is this the only reason that anxiety disorders occur though? Moreover, what leads to this imbalance?
If you have been thinking about what causes anxiety disorder, you might be interested to know that there are quite a few factors that can contribute to the condition developing. These include:
- Traumatic experiences – can trigger anxiety in many individuals. People who have suffered emotional, sexual, or physical abuse will have a higher risk for anxiety disorder. Other emotional past experiences that might contribute to anxiety disorder include the loss of a loved one, being bullied, being socially excluded, and suffering neglect.
- Environment – can also be a trigger for anxiety. For example, if you are living in an unstable home where you are being emotionally or physically abused, you may suffer anxiety. Stress, money problems, and pressure associated with work can also lead to anxiety.
- Health problems – if you have mental or physical health problems, then anxiety could also become an issue. Those living with a chronic health problem may develop anxiety, while a history of other mental health disorders can also trigger the illness.
- Substance abuse – often occurs in those looking for a way to relieve the symptoms of anxiety, but it can also trigger the condition in some people. Certain psychiatric medications, as well as illegal drugs and alcohol, can cause anxiety when abused.
Types of Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders come in many forms and each sufferer will be affected in a different way. The different disorders tend to be triggered by specific events or situations. Below are a few examples:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder – a condition that tends to develop after a traumatic event. It commonly affects soldiers returning from war, but it could also affect those who have been in an accident or who have witnessed a traumatic event. It often causes flashbacks or nightmares and can trigger the same feelings of anxiety or fear that occurred during the event.
- Phobias – can trigger anxiety; it can be caused by an intense fear of a particular object or situation. For example, some people are frightened of flying while others are terrified of spiders.
- Panic disorder – a condition that may not have a clear trigger. It results in regular panic attacks, but it can also cause anxiety at the thoughts of having a panic attack – which can then trigger one.
- Social anxiety disorder – where social situations can make some people feel incredibly nervous and can cause extreme feelings of anxiety. This disorder can have a deep impact on a person’s ability to live a normal life as many will avoid attending any event or place where they might have to talk to other people.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder – a form of anxiety that is related to repetitive urges, thoughts, or behaviours.
- Generalised anxiety disorder – causes constant feelings of worry or unease for no apparent reason. Those with GAD often spend their entire life worrying about one thing or another. When one situation resolves itself, they will find something else to worry about.
Do You Have an Anxiety Disorder?
It is natural to speculate what causes anxiety disorder when trying to establish whether you are affected by it or not. If you have an anxiety disorder, you might be experiencing some of the following symptoms:
- A constant feeling of unease or dread
- Pins and needles
- Rapid breathing
- An irregular heartbeat
- Excessive sweating or hot flushes
- Sleeping problems
- Panic attacks
- Aches and pains
- Always fearing the worst
- Constantly worrying that people are upset with you
- Feeling constant reassurance from others
- Overthinking situations
- Feeling disconnected from yourself or the world around you
- Worrying about the future.
If you are familiar with the above symptoms, it may be worth speaking to your doctor about it.
How Can Anxiety Affect Your Life?
Anxiety disorders that spiral out of control obviously have a negative impact on the sufferer’s life. For example, you might spend all your time worrying, which will then affect your home and work life. It may prevent you from socialising and could have a negative impact on your relationships with family members and friends.
You might be unable to control your feelings of anxiety and unease, which could cause other problems such as depression to develop. Some people who suffer from anxiety and depression seek solace in alcohol and other mood-altering substances such as prescription medication or illegal drugs. This could then lead to addiction, which can make their problems even worse. In extreme cases, anxiety can lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
If you have an anxiety disorder, it is important to seek help sooner rather than later as it is a condition that can get out of control very quickly without treatment. The good news is that with professional help, you can learn to manage the symptoms of your illness so that your quality of life improves.
Treatment for anxiety disorder usually involves a combination of medication and therapy. Anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines might be prescribed for short-term relief while you are treated with therapy. However, if you have been abusing alcohol or drugs, then it is unlikely that these medications will be prescribed as they can become habit-forming.
If it is necessary for you to have long-term treatment with medication, your doctor could prescribe antidepressants instead. Nevertheless, these medications can take a few weeks to start working and they do often come with side effects that can make taking them unpleasant.
As well as medication, you may be advised to speak with a counsellor or therapist who is likely to use talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT works by addressing the negative thoughts and feelings that are affecting your behaviour.
You will learn how to recognise and challenge the thoughts that are making you feel anxious. You will also learn how to use positive coping strategies to relieve these feelings when they arise.
Where to Get Help for Anxiety Disorders as Co-occurring Conditions?
Now that you have a clearer understanding of what causes anxiety disorder and what having one might feel like, you may be interested to know how and where you can get help. To this end, know that there are quite a few options here in the UK.
Your doctor can help by not only prescribing appropriate medication but also referring you to an NHS counsellor or outpatient programme. You can also talk to us here at Sanctuary Lodge if you are interested in finding out about our inpatient treatment programmes. We have a team of counsellors and therapists with experience in helping people overcome a wide range of anxiety disorders. Please call us today for more information on what we do and how we can help you.