13 Things That Can Cause Anxiety—And What You Can Do About Them (2023)

Nervousness, panic, fear, sweating, and rapid heartbeat: can all be symptoms of anxiety. And in times of true danger, anxiety and its symptoms can be helpful. But sometimes, those feelings go into overdrive at the wrong time, and anxiety winds up interfering with daily life.

"If an individual gets to the point where worries and being careful crosses a line into what would be considered a disorder, then that person's ability to function in daily life…is impaired," Una McCann, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Anxiety Disorders Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told Health. "It can really detrimentally affect someone's life."

Eventually, anxiety may escalate to the point that a person is unable to do their job, perform household duties, or care for themselves or loved ones as they normally would, explained Dr. McCann. Knowing what may be causing or worsening the anxiety may help to prevent it from getting to this level.

The triggers of anxiety are different for everyone, but here are some of the more common ones.

Is this pain in my chest a sign that I'm having a heart attack? Does my skin rash mean I have cancer? Anxiety can often stem from worry that there is something wrong with your body.

Everyone has concerns about their health from time to time, but depending on someone's history and personality, Dr. McCann said that physical symptoms can be a sign of an anxiety disorder if the worrying interferes with daily functioning.

The physical symptoms that first made you start feeling anxious about your health can also be very similar to some of the symptoms of anxiety itself—increased heart rate, hyperventilation, sweating, and feeling weak—which can lead to a cycle of anxiety.

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Worries About Your Loved Ones

For some, anxiety does not come from worry about themselves but rather from fear about what can happen to their loved ones. Dr. McCann said that people might fret not only about something happening to their children, close family members, or friends but also about how they can possibly cope if something bad actually does happen.

Caregivers are particularly affected. They are faced with many challenges in providing care for someone else while juggling their own needs. And according to the results of a systematic review published in PLoS One in March 2021, the more caregivers feel burdened, the more anxiety symptoms they experience.

One reason why finances might trigger anxiety is because, in our minds, money is linked to survival. "Money is really a resource that can provide people with a sense of safety and security," Chloe Carmichael, PhD, a psychologist in New York City told Health. "When we feel that resource is scarce, it can actually make people feel like their survival is in jeopardy on a very primal level."

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Some of the common financial stressors have to do with concerns about savings, job security, salary, lack of financial savvy, debt, identity theft, and wealth comparison.

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Not Getting Enough Sleep

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should get at least 7 hours of good quality sleep per day. Not getting enough of that recommended sleep time is another factor that can worsen anxiety.

Over the years, Dr. McCann has done studies on the link between sleep deprivation and anxiety. Through this work, Dr. McCann has found that regardless of whether or not someone has an anxiety disorder, anxiety levels go up following a night of sleep deprivation.

This link can be a vicious cycle: while sleep deprivation can cause anxiety, anxiety can cause sleeping problems, as the Anxiety and Depression Association of America pointed out.

Dr. McCann also noted that when people are sleep-deprived, they become much more sensitive to the effects of anxiety-inducing substances, such as caffeine and other stimulants.

Yes, coffee can make anxiety worse. Susan Bowling, PsyD, a psychologist at the Women's Health Center at the Wooster Branch of Cleveland Clinic, told Health that some studies show that consuming more than 200 milligrams of caffeine (about the amount in just two cups of coffee) can increase the likelihood of anxiety and panic attacks in people sensitive to it.

"The natural effects of caffeine stimulate a host of sensations, such as your heart beating faster, your body heating up, your breathing rate increasing—all things that mimic anxiety," Bowling told Health. "Psychologically, it's difficult for your mind to recognize that this is not anxiety because it feels the same."

Other stimulants can trigger anxiety too. While some with anxiety might use cannabis as a way to relax, Dr. McCann said that it can actually have stimulating compounds that can worsen anxiety. "Unfortunately, many people attempt to self-medicate when they become anxious, and that can really backfire," Dr. McCann told Health.

Dr. McCann advises that just because something says it's herbal and natural—like cannabis—doesn't mean it's safe. And when you're buying food, such as herbs, online or in the store, and the label says it can be relaxing, she said to be "very, very careful. Don't do it unless you have really expert guidance."

Taking Certain Medications

Some medications themselves are stimulants and so can trigger anxiety. These include amphetamines and methylphenidate, both of which are used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.

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Dr. McCann also said that some antidepressants, such as Wellbutrin XL (bupropion) and Effexor XR (venlafaxine), and some anti-asthma medications can be stimulating for some people.

Your diet can impact your mental health as well. According to Lily Brown, PhD, director of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania, what you eat and the way it makes you feel can make you more sensitive to the impact of anxiety.

Research published in the British Medical Journal in June 2020 showed that eating a lot of processed carbohydrates can increase the risk of anxiety. The researchers think this might be because of the repeated and rapid changes in blood glucose levels. Recurrent low blood sugar is also associated with mood disorders.

Feeling That Everything Needs To Be Done Just So

Perfectionism can be a major driver of anxiety. And for many, it's an unexpected trigger from an underlying perfectionism trait—they might not even have seen themselves as perfectionistic.

Brown told Health that you might be able to anticipate such a trigger if you see yourself saying things like, "I can start on that task when all of these things come together. That will make it easier for me to do it; I can start on that task and have the time to really dive into it the right way—or the resources to dive into it the right way."

Sometimes, arguments or disagreements within your different relationships are inevitable. On top of causing feelings of sadness or depression, conflict within your social network can cause anxiety, said Brown.

In particular, Brown said, social conflict can lead people to worry about the future consequences of conflict in close relationships.

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Information Overload

Your social media diet can also be a trigger for anxiety. According to a study published in the American Journal of Health Behavior in March 2019, the following are all associated with an increased risk of anxiety:

  • Using four or more social media platforms
  • Being on social media for an hour or more per day
  • Visiting social media sites 30 or more times per week
  • Feeling an intense emotional connection to social media
  • Feeling as though you are addicted to using social

You don't have to go cold turkey. "You just want to limit the time you engage with it so that you're not constantly checking in to see what the latest most outrageous news is or the latest social media battle is about," said Brown.

"Some amount of engaging with that material is fine, but for many people, it can be a tremendously triggering experience to look at social media or to read the news." If that's the case, said Brown, "You need to be really thoughtful of whether it would make sense for you to limit your exposure."

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And if you find yourself feeling so anxious that you avoid social media altogether, Brown said that spending time on social media might actually be helpful for you, so you can practice learning about your ability to tolerate anxiety: "It's all about finding that perfect balance."

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Separation from a caregiver is a common trigger of anxiety for children and adolescents, but it can be an anxiety trigger for adults as well.

"They often worry that some sort of harm or something untoward will happen to their attachment figures while they are separated," according to the National Institute of Mental Health. "This fear leads them to avoid being separated from their attachment figures and to avoid being alone."

People whose anxiety is triggered by the thought of being separated from someone may have nightmares about the separation or experience physical symptoms when the separation occurs or is anticipated.

Concerns Over Large-Scale Disasters

Extreme weather events are happening more frequently, and scientists are increasingly linking them to climate change. This can be a two-fold stressor: the natural disasters themselves and the climate change that causes them.

"We're going to continue to see climate catastrophes and tipping points," Thomas Doherty, PsyD, an Oregon-based psychologist, told Health. "People have become more used to them, but these really super destructive [events] cause a lot of stress and anxiety."

The environmental changes that may lead to many of these events can be an anxiety trigger itself, as well. It is known as eco-anxiety. "This used to be a special interest issue; now it's much more common because of climate-related events," said Doherty. "This is not something far away anymore."

The COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2020 also led to the coining of a new term: coronaphobia. During the pandemic, researchers saw that COVID-19-related worries led to greater levels of anxiety, as was reported in August 2020 in Translational Psychiatry.

This anxiety could stem from being uncertain about the future during the pandemic, adopting new practices and avoidance behavior, and hearing about world leaders and famous celebrities who have contracted the virus.

This anxiety trigger is one that a lot of people have, especially during major world events like the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people had loved ones who had an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 or of dying if they did contract it, and they weren't able to see these at-risk loved ones because of the virus.

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"The loss of control associated with COVID makes [the concerns about a loved one's health] even more difficult to deal with," Dr. McCann told Health. "When we have a sense of control and can see things and interact with things, it's calming in a way. But the absolute inability to see or reach out to or help people who you love and care for from afar can be very anxiety-provoking."

What You Can Do

Once you know more about the causes of anxiety, there are things you can do to manage it.

Figure Out Your Triggers

Being able to predict what can start or worsen your anxiety can be extraordinarily helpful in managing anxiety. But identifying that trigger—or triggers, if you have multiple ones—can be hard.

One way to figure out what your anxiety triggers are is to keep a thought journal. Brown will sometimes have her patients name three times in the past week they felt high-intensity emotion.

For each of those situations, she'll have them write down what was going through their mind, what was going on in their body, what they were tempted to do, where they were when it happened, and what was going on.

By reflecting on times when your anxiety has gone through the roof, you may start to see certain patterns emerge that suggest what may be triggering you, explained Brown.

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Prepare for and Manage Your Trigger

Try to take care of your important self-care activities before any chaos happens, said Brown. "The idea here is, for all of us, at some point, something chaotic is going to happen. And so an important goal is to think about how can you prepare for the eventual chaos by taking care of yourself now so that when the chaos does happen, you feel more resilient at the base of it."

When something has triggered your anxiety, and you're experiencing high emotions because of it, self-care activities alone are unlikely enough to reduce your anxiety, explained Brown. Once that anxiousness kicks in, that's when coping mechanisms like distraction and mindfulness practice come into play, said Brown.

Opening up to others about what you are experiencing can also validate your emotions and help get you through the anxiety that the trigger has initiated.

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Identifying and dealing with these triggers sooner rather than later could be helpful in managing anxiety.

But if your anxiety is to a point where you feel it is already out of control, Dr. McCann said a medical professional can help: "The really good news is there are treatments—both medication and behavioral treatments—for all of the anxiety disorders as well as stressors that might make people anxious."


What are 10 things that would cause you to feel anxious about? ›

10 Surprisingly Common Anxiety Triggers
  • Caffeine. Topping the list, caffeine can do many things, including inducing anxiety. ...
  • A Messy Home Environment. This one often surprises people. ...
  • Self Neglect. ...
  • Not Enough Sleep. ...
  • Stress. ...
  • Finances. ...
  • Social Gatherings. ...
  • Work Environment.

What are 3 strategies to reduce anxiety? ›

The best coping strategy for anxiety will be different for each person.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • Keeping active.
  • Eating well.
  • Spending time outdoors in nature.
  • Spending time with family and friends.
  • Reducing stress.
  • Doing activities you enjoy.

What are 5 coping skills for anxiety? ›

Here are 11 tips for coping with an anxiety disorder:
  • Keep physically active. ...
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. ...
  • Quit smoking, and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages. ...
  • Use stress management and relaxation techniques. ...
  • Make sleep a priority. ...
  • Eat healthy foods. ...
  • Learn about your disorder.
Jul 20, 2021

What is the biggest anxiety trigger? ›

Difficult experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood are a common trigger for anxiety problems. Going through stress and trauma when you're very young is likely to have a particularly big impact. Experiences which can trigger anxiety problems include things like: physical or emotional abuse.

What are 10 types of anxiety disorders? ›

Types of Anxiety Disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder. You feel excessive, unrealistic worry and tension with little or no reason.
  • Panic disorder. ...
  • Social anxiety disorder. ...
  • Specific phobias. ...
  • Agoraphobia. ...
  • Separation anxiety. ...
  • Selective mutism. ...
  • Medication-induced anxiety disorder.
Jan 7, 2023

Can you give me a list of five things that make you nervous? ›

Anxiety triggers
  • Health issues. A health diagnosis that's upsetting or difficult, such as cancer or a chronic illness, may trigger anxiety or make it worse. ...
  • Medications. ...
  • Caffeine. ...
  • Skipping meals. ...
  • Negative thinking. ...
  • Financial concerns. ...
  • Parties or social events. ...
  • Conflict.

What are the 6 major types of anxiety disorders? ›

There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder and separation anxiety disorder.

What are 3 effects of anxiety? ›

These can include: feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax. having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst. feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down.

What foods help with anxiety? ›

Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains — for example, oatmeal, quinoa, whole-grain breads and whole-grain cereals. Steer clear of foods that contain simple carbohydrates, such as sugary foods and drinks. Drink plenty of water. Even mild dehydration can affect your mood.

What are the 6 anxiety reducing tips? ›

6 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety
  • If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, know that you are not alone. Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the U.S., according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. ...
  • Eat a Nutritious Diet. ...
  • Get Moving. ...
  • Practice Positive Self-Talk. ...
  • Get More Sleep. ...
  • Distract Yourself.
Sep 26, 2017

What is the best way to beat anxiety? ›

8 long-term strategies for coping with anxiety
  1. Identify and learn to manage your triggers. ...
  2. Adopt cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) ...
  3. Do a daily or routine meditation. ...
  4. Keep a journal. ...
  5. Socialize. ...
  6. Try supplements or change your diet. ...
  7. Keep your body and mind healthy. ...
  8. Ask your doctor about medications.

What are the 3 C's of anxiety? ›

It is based on the three "C's" of recovery calm your body, correct your thinking, and confront your fears.

How I healed my anxiety without drugs? ›

Anxiety Treatment Without Medication: 7 Holistic Ways to Cope
  1. Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check. ...
  2. Avoid Stimulants. ...
  3. Get Enough Sleep. ...
  4. Just Breathe. ...
  5. Practice Mindfulness. ...
  6. Exercise. ...
  7. Do What You Enjoy. ...
  8. Where to Get Help.
Dec 6, 2017

How do I stop worrying about everything? ›

How can you stop worrying?
  1. Mindfulness and meditation.
  2. Deep breathing.
  3. Practice self-compassion.
  4. Do a body scan.
  5. Share your fears with friends and family.
  6. Practice gratitude.
  7. Keep an emotions journal.
  8. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.

Who suffers from anxiety the most? ›

Women are more than twice as likely as men to get an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Anxiety disorders are often treated with counseling, medicine, or a combination of both. Some women also find that yoga or meditation helps with anxiety disorders.

What makes anxiety worse at night? ›

There are many reasons why your anxiety may be worse at night. Daily stressors, poor sleep habits, and other health conditions can lead to increased anxiety and panic attacks at night. However, there are many treatments available that can help ease your anxiety and improve your quality of sleep.

At what point is anxiety too much? ›

A little anxiety is fine, but long-term anxiety may cause more serious health problems, such as high blood pressure (hypertension). You may also be more likely to develop infections. If you're feeling anxious all the time, or it's affecting your day-to-day life, you may have an anxiety disorder or a panic disorder.

What is false anxiety? ›

Unwanted thoughts are one of the most common examples of false anxiety. Often time we as humans tend to be cynical, thinking about worst case scenarios, 'what if' thoughts so to speak. We tend to get so caught up in our thoughts that we end up getting trapped by them.

What illnesses are like anxiety? ›

Conditions That Look Like Anxiety
  • Heart Problems. 1/15. These can spike your heart and breathing rates the same way anxiety does. ...
  • Asthma. 2/15. ...
  • Diabetes. 3/15. ...
  • Hyperthyroidism. 4/15. ...
  • Sleep Apnea. 5/15. ...
  • Adrenal Dysfunction. 6/15. ...
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) 7/15. ...
  • Electrolyte Imbalance. 8/15.
Jun 28, 2021

What are the 8 types of anxiety? ›

Summary. This chapter describes the eight major categories of anxiety disorder such as specific phobia, social phobia, separation anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Can a person trigger your anxiety? ›

If you suffer from anxiety, you may have noticed that certain triggers make it worse. Sometimes these triggers can be daily activities or situations (like giving a big work presentation) but for some people, they can also come in the shape of a person.

How to relax your mind? ›

Just stepping away from something stressful for a few minutes or taking time away from your normal routines and thoughts can give you enough space and distance to feel calmer. Read a book or a magazine, even if it's only for a few minutes. Run yourself a bath, watch a film, play with a pet or try out a new recipe.

Is anxiety is a mental illness? ›

Anxiety disorders are a type of mental health condition. Anxiety makes it difficult to get through your day. Symptoms include feelings of nervousness, panic and fear as well as sweating and a rapid heartbeat. Treatments include medications and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Is anxiety part of bipolar? ›

Most people with bipolar disorder have a coexisting mental health condition of some sort. According to a 2011 survey , anxiety disorder is the most prevalent one of these. According to a 2019 literature review, at least half of people with bipolar disorder will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.

What can anxiety do to your brain? ›

Summary: Pathological anxiety and chronic stress lead to structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the PFC, which may account for the increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia.

What does anxiety feel like in your head? ›

Some common mental symptoms of anxiety include:

Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom. Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry. Having difficulty controlling worry. Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety.

Which fruit is best for anxiety? ›


When we're anxious and stressed, our bodies crave vitamin C to help repair and protect our cells, and blueberries are packed full of it. Small but mighty, blueberries are bursting with antioxidants and vitamin C which have been shown to provide anxiety relief.

Do bananas help anxiety? ›

The B-vitamins in bananas, like folate and vitamin B6, are key to the production of serotonin, which can help improve your mood and reduce anxiety. For an extra stress-busting boost, top bananas with almond, peanut, or cashew butter.

What is best natural for anxiety? ›

What are the best natural remedies for anxiety?
  1. 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) This may not look familiar to you, but you have lots of 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) floating around in your body. ...
  2. Magnesium. ...
  3. Cannabidiol (CBD) ...
  4. Kava kava. ...
  5. Valerian root. ...
  6. Holy basil. ...
  7. Ashwagandha.
Oct 20, 2022

Why wont my anxiety go away? ›

An anxiety disorder can be caused by multiple factors, such as genetics, environmental stressors and medical conditions. New research also indicates that chronic anxiety symptoms that will not go away can be due to an autoimmune response, triggered by common infections.

What should I watch to calm my anxiety? ›

  • The Good Place.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
  • Schitt's Creek.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
  • Better Things.
  • Mythic Quest.
  • The Great British Bake-Off.
  • Ted Lasso.
Mar 22, 2022

What home remedy gets rid of anxiety fast? ›

10 natural remedies for anxiety
  1. Stay active. ...
  2. Steer clear of alcohol. ...
  3. Consider quitting smoking cigarettes. ...
  4. Limit caffeine intake. ...
  5. Prioritize getting a good night's rest. ...
  6. Meditate and practice mindfulness. ...
  7. Eat a balanced diet. ...
  8. Practice deep breathing.

What is the 3 3 3 rule for anxiety? ›

Follow the 3-3-3 rule.

Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm.

Is anxiety a chemical imbalance? ›

But researchers don't know exactly what causes anxiety disorders. They suspect a combination of factors plays a role: Chemical imbalance: Severe or long-lasting stress can change the chemical balance that controls your mood. Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period can lead to an anxiety disorder.

How to fix anxiety? ›

Here's what you can do:
  1. Keep physically active. Develop a routine so that you're physically active most days of the week. ...
  2. Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. ...
  3. Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages. ...
  4. Use stress management and relaxation techniques. ...
  5. Make sleep a priority. ...
  6. Eat healthy.

What is the 54321 method for anxiety? ›

One of the most common grounding techniques is the “54321” exercise. It goes like this: Start with deep breathing. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 5 seconds, and breathe out for 5 seconds.


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