Though nearly any unexpected turn of events can cause anxiety symptoms to populate, there are common sources, according to experts. From finances and career, to current relationships and even family history, here are some of the most prevalent anxiety causes.
Though many people will suffer from financial anxiety when they’re barely making ends meet, Bradshaw says even those who have more than enough to get by may worry, too. When you or your partner lose your source of income, a huge medical or home damage bill shows up in your mailbox, or when you become a caretaker for a sick parent, you experience major financial strain. This can manifest through anxiety symptoms, and Bradshaw urges people to explore their relationship to money and what it means in their life. Often, by doing this, you’ll be able to pinpoint habits that need to change. “If you make choices that don’t align with your meaning, and therefore you can’t achieve desired goals, there will ll inevitably be some anxiety,” she says. For example, “if money means security and freedom, and you don’t manage your money in a way that allows you to experience security and freedom, this will certainly cause you anxiety.”
Whether you have toxic coworkers or a micromanaging boss, dreading going into the office every day is a surefire way to trigger anxiety symptoms. As Bradshaw explains, most Americans spend a disproportionate amount of time at work or working, even when they’re home. For most people, email follows them all the way to bed, where our phone rests a few inches from our pillow. This constant nagging notion that you should be “on” creates anxious feelings. “We’re always accessible and expected to be available—this is a source of stress,” she says. “The workload is heavier and the workday is longer and seemingly endless with our devices keeping us tethered to our jobs even while on vacation.”
If you can’t shake the ongoing thought that you hate your job—Bradshaw suggests chatting with a professional who can help you navigate feelings of uncertainty, lack of control and not having a sense of agency over yourself while at work.
Your technological devices.
Most of us are guilty of giving our phones, computers, and tablets more attention than we do our partners, pets, or even our children. In an ever-connected world, it’s easy to check in, scroll, or read the latest news constantly. However, Lori Whatley, PhD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in the effects of digital device usage on individuals and relationships, says too much tech can cause anxiety symptoms because it over-stimulates the brain and nervous system, almost creating an addiction.
“We can become anxious when we don’t have our tech with us and even have phantom vibrations when we’re away from our phones,” she says. “We can suffer from a fear of missing out when we leave our tech behind for a while and realize that we’re constantly thinking about it and wondering what others are doing and saying online that we’re missing.” When we start to feel nervous if separated from our gadgets, Whatley suggests talking to a nearby friend or colleague. This is because what we’re actually craving is connection and engagement, which our phones can provide in an instant. Striking up a conversation may have the same impact, and decrease those feelings.
Your family history.
Anxiety can be situational, genetic, and chemical, and that all three factors—your circumstances/environment, DNA, and chemical makeup—contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder, says Sarah Schewitz, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, Calif. “There are many neurotransmitters in our brain that impact our mood. The main ones that impact anxiety are serotonin, GABA, dopamine, and norepinephrine,” Schewitz explains. “If the levels or absorption of these neurotransmitters are off, it can cause anxiety.” This means if your mother or father suffered from anxiety, the odds you may experience it are higher, especially if you witnessed their symptoms firsthand.
Your relationships and friendships.
Your friend group can turn your whole life around with encouraging messages, long conversations, and even a meaningful hug. But what about when there’s stress in your friendships or your romantic relationships? You’ll probably experience heightened worry, since these people likely mean the world to you. Many people feel pressure from the outside world—including their closest community—to be their happiest, best, and most supportive, says Yvonne Thomas, PhD, a psychologist and psychotherapist in Los Angeles, Calif. When we feel as if we’re falling short, we often become overwhelmed, resulting in anxiety symptoms. The same is true when someone we trust and love disappoints or betrays us, or when we’re going through a huge transition. Even wonderful ones—like marriage or expecting a baby—can bring unexpected, negative emotions. More often than not, the best way to combat these thoughts and emotions is through talking them out with a professional.
You know the signs, now here are some of the best ways to cope if you’re struggling with anxiety, including therapy, stress management, and mindfulness meditation.