The Roots of Anxiety

Anxiety--whether it’s chronic or not--is bound to affect all of us at least once in our lives. We’re all human and we’re all alive, which means we’re all subject to the biological laws of responding to stimuli. And by definition, anxiety is precisely that--it’s a response to the world around us. 

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common causes of anxiety, including:

  • How genetics play a role in anxiety;
  • how the unknown can eat away at you;
  • and how everyday life stressors can fill you with doubt.

Anxiety from Genetics

Some people are genetically predisposed to chronic anxiety. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will experience it; it just means that they have a family history of chronic anxiety, which would suggest that it’s genetic. Genetic anxiety disorders work kind of like a lightswitch. 

When the lightswitch is off, a person will feel no more anxiety than what they might encounter in their day-to-day lives. When the lightswitch is flicked on, however, they might become subject to chronic anxiety. There’s no guarantee that the lightswitch will ever be flicked on, but if it is, there’s almost always some sort of stressor.

Anxiety from Stressors

A stressor is an event or circumstance that puts a certain amount of tension on the mind or body. With anxiety, the tension is almost always put on the mind--but it may manifest itself physically. 

You may begin to experience chronic anxiety as a result of any situation where you feel helpless. An anxiety stressor can range anywhere from pressure from your boss to finish a project at work to being physically assaulted while walking home alone late at night. You might feel anxious about your deadlines or juggling a massive workload. You might also feel anxious about the dark, and not being able to see things coming.

molecules and DNA
Genetics are sometimes a factor in why a person might experience anxiety, but just because it might be written into someone’s DNA, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll experience anxiety.

Anxiety from The Unknown

The unknown is actually one of the most common causes of anxiety. We all like to know where we’re headed, as well as when, why, and how. We don’t like not being in control. Because of this, the unknown is written into the definition of anxiety. 

It’s why we’re afraid of the ocean and black holes. It’s why we’re obsessed with making plans and sticking to them--especially on a long-term scale. It’s why we’re so afraid to start something new. We love to feel like we’re in control, like if we plan it well enough, nothing will be unknowable. We’re driven by our anxiety about the unknown, and when something throws a wrench in our plans, that anxiety has the potential to become chronic.

Knowing what causes your anxiety is a big part of overcoming it. The most common causes are genetics, life stressors, and the unknown, but they don’t have to be debilitating. Seek help from a doctor or a loved one if you feel like your anxiety is taking control of your life.

For more information about anxiety and some resources, please visit the National Institute of Mental Health.

For questions, partnerships, or to get covered on the GRW blog, click here.

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