There are many factors that can cause anxiety disorders, ranging from personal experiences, medical conditions and even lifestyle choices. Patients who have anxiety disorders may find that these conditions can be triggered by one or two — or more — different things.
5 Reasons Why You May Be Affected With an Anxiety Disorder
So what are the potential causes of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, separation anxiety and other anxiety disorders? Medical News Today lists five common risk factors:1,2
1. Environmental and external factors: Some of the possible triggers for anxiety disorders include certain events and environmental factors, such as:
Trauma from life events3
Stress from personal relationships, friendships4,5 or divorce6
Stress from work or school
Stress about finances
Stress due to natural disasters
Lack of oxygen in high altitude areas
2. Medical factors: For some people, anxiety disorders may arise because of:
• Heart disease, diabetes or hyperthyroidism
• Stress due to a serious medical condition
• Side effects of a medication
• Symptoms of another illness
• Lung-related conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung)7
3. Substance use or abuse: People with a history of substance use or abuse tend to experience anxiety because of:
• Alcohol8 or benzodiazepine9 dependence
• Use of drugs like cocaine10 or amphetamine11
• Withdrawal from alcohol, benzodiazepines or other drugs
4. Genetics: Researchers have suggested that people with a family history of anxiety disorders have an increased risk for these diseases.12 In fact, it’s said that seven new genes may be connected to the onset of these health problems,13 although more research is required to fully confirm this.
5. Brain chemistry: Other studies have indicated that patients may be more prone to GAD if they have reduced levels of particular neurotransmitters in the brain, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA),14 dopamine15 and norepinephrine.16 Anxiety disorders may arise should these neurotransmitters fail to function properly, resulting in a breakdown of the brain’s internal communication network and leading to negative thoughts or feelings.17
Other Lifestyle Factors That Could Trigger Anxiety Disorders
While there are times when it’s obvious that you can attribute anxiety disorders to the five aforementioned factors, there are other components in your lifestyle or diet that can significantly increase your risk for these conditions, such as:
Exposure to cell phones, non-native electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and radiofrequencies (RFs): A 2014 study by researchers from Kent State University, Ohio, showed that frequent cell phone use decreased college students’ academic performance, but increased levels of anxiety and unhappiness.18
Food additives, food dyes, GMOs and glyphosate: Artificial food additives and dyes can disrupt proper brain function and negatively affect your mood.
GMOs and genetically engineered (GE) ingredients also cause major changes in the gut flora and promote pathogens that eliminate good bacteria that are vital for both mental and physical health.
Gut dysfunction due to an imbalanced microflora: Proper brain function and improved psychological well-being and mood control are some benefits you can attain when you nourish your gut flora.
A lot of people are unaware that your gut and your brain work together, and if one of these isn’t working properly, it could cause negative effects on your physical and mental health.
For instance, anxiety is actually one of 22 health problems that may develop due to a severe magnesium deficiency.19
Low vitamin D levels can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression linked to sunshine deficiency.20 Sunlight exposure is the best source of vitamin D.
Omega-3 fats, particularly EPA and DHA, play vital roles in improving emotional health. A study proved that medical students who took omega-3s lowered their anxiety by 20 percent.21
Excessive consumption of artificial sweeteners like sugar and junk food: Refined sugar and processed fructose, as well as two types of artificial sweeteners, attract pathogens in the gut and reduce the amount of beneficial bacteria in it.
This leads to adverse consequences for both your gut and mental health.
These sweeteners also suppress brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and cause adverse chemical reactions that may lead to chronic inflammation and improper immune system and brain function.
Exposure to toxic mold: Anxiety is just one of the harmful effects of toxic mold to your mental health.
Improper breathing: Anxiety is just one of the many complications that may occur because of chronic overbreathing or hyperventilation. This is defined as “breathing in excess of metabolic requirements of the body at that time.”
According to Patrick McKeown, an expert on Buteyko breathing, heavier breathing was more evident among people who were sick.
There are many reasons why people fall into the bad habit of breathing improperly in the first place, such as the belief that it’s OK to take big and deep breaths, genetics, familial habits, processed food and stress.