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What can Cause Anxiety?

Last updated on 20th December 2023

According to Anxiety UK more than 1 in 10 people are likely to have ‘disabling anxiety disorder’. Having anxiety can result in major lifestyle changes including to their health and their personality.

Anxiety is defined as ‘an uncomfortable feeling of nervousness or worry about something that is happening or might happen in the future’.

Thankfully the stigma around mental health problems is slowly being broken. There is still a way to go with it however, compared to 50 years ago, there is a lot more knowledge, understanding and treatments available to help people cope with their anxiety.

There are many different life experiences that can cause a person to suffer with anxiety, often the life experiences are out of the persons control and it can take a while for the life experience to settle, below will show some of the main life experiences that can cause it.

According to Young Minds 1 in 6 young people aged 16-24 has symptoms of common mental health disorders, such as anxiety.


If anxiety runs in a person’s family it can make them more susceptible to having anxiety themselves. However this isn’t entirely due to genetics, it could be that the individual has ‘learnt’ anxiety symptoms from their parents rather than inheriting them.

Little girl comforting upset mum

Childhood trauma

If someone has had a trauma during their childhood, such as abuse, neglect or being involved in an accident or incident, this can cause them to develop anxiety issues at the time, or later on in life.

Often people can repress any painful memories, however then when they get older their behaviour can become subconsciously motivated by those memories and this can lead them to experiencing anxiety. They may not even realise the cause of anxiety when it occurs in later life.

Adulthood trauma

If people experience trauma during their adulthood, this can also be the cause of their anxiety. This could be down to something such as bereavement or divorce, this is a massive life changing event for someone. Often an individual is too consumed by the events to notice the effects that it is having on them, however once the event has started to settle down, the effects can result in anxiety, as the individual is not prepared to deal with the overwhelming emotions that they are feeling.


When someone is employed it can lead them to experiencing anxiety, this then makes the person feel as though they cannot cope with things that ae being thrown at them, when someone has the worry over money it can affect the way they feel and it can impact their relationships with those around them, which can cause them more worry and stress.

Relationships and friendships

Relationships can cause a person to experience anxiety, if the individual feels like they don’t have any control over their involvement in the relationship, this can causer them to lack in self esteem and confidence, which are two major factors in the development of anxiety.

Friendships can also cause a person to experience anxiety, if the person is always feeling as though they are being let down by the other person and being taken advantage of, this can cause the person to feel worthless and then feel like no one wants to spend time with them and that there must be something wrong with them, for someone who has already experienced anxiety in the past, this can make it worse for them.

Woman having anxiety


People who take prescription or illegal drugs can experience anxiety depending on the body’s reaction to them. When someone starts taking prescription drugs, they often experience side effects, one of the side effects of a lot of medication is anxiety.

Illegal drugs can cause someone paranoia and panic, this can be difficult for someone to cope with if they have dependency on the drug, it can make it harder to withdraw from the drug.

Physical causes

Another cause of anxiety can be physically, below will look at two main types of physical causes that can mean a person will experience anxiety.

Blood sugar

If someone’s blood sugar is unstable it can cause them to be anxious, this is because some of the symptoms are similar to anxiety symptoms, this includes trembling, sweating and dizziness.

Chronic pain

When someone is suffering with chronic pain it can overall impact the person’s well-being, if someone knows that they are going to be in pain it can cause them anxiety as they know how much it will hurt, this can make both the pain and the anxiety worse, as often physical health issues and mental health issues are made worse by each other.

Thinking styles

Depending on a person’s thinking style can determine if they are more likely to be affected by anxiety or not. For instance, if someone has a positive thinking pattern, they can usually see the good in situations and this in turn will help them to be less likely to feel overwhelmed in situations.

Panic attacks 

A panic attack is defined as “a sudden period of severe anxiety in which your heart beats fast, you have trouble breathing and you feel as if something very bad is going to happen.”

For people that experience panic attacks, they can be a scary experience, the symptoms of a panic attack can be similar to those of a heart attack, when people get a tight chest and struggle to breath, they can believe that they are going to die, this can add to the anxiety and cause the panic attack to be prolonged. People have often gone to hospital believing that they are having a heart attack to be then told they have experienced a panic attack.

Panic attack symptoms can be varied and include:

  • Racing heart.
  • Trembling.
  • Sweating.
  • Dizziness.
  • Chest pain.
  • Uncontrollable crying.
  • Feeling like you are choking, as you are struggling to slow your breathing down.

The symptoms of a panic attack occur because the body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode, this could be in response to a real, imagined or subconscious stressor. Most individuals experience panic attacks when they don’t expect them and this is what can make them so scary, people can also experience panic attacks while they are asleep and these can be the most distressing of them all.

Panic attacks can last a few seconds up or up to around 30 minutes, but they don’t last forever and the symptoms start to ease.

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About the author

Eve Johnson

Eve Johnson

Eve has worked at CPD from the start, she organises the course and blog production, as well as supporting students with any problems they may have and helping them choose the correct courses. Eve is also studying for her Business Administration Level 3 qualification. Outside of work Eve likes to buy anything with flamingos on it, catching up with friends, spending time with her family and occasionally going to the gym!

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