Anxiety is a mental health issue characterized by feelings of fear, worry, or tension. Anxiety can also cause panic attacks and chronic physical symptoms like chest pain. Read along to learn more about common anxiety triggers.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are prevalent and affect approximately 40 million individuals in the U.S.
There is no exact cause of anxiety and anxiety disorders. It’s likely that a collective of factors, like environmental factors and genetics, play a role. However, some anxiety symptoms may be caused by emotions, events, or experiences. These elements that cause anxiety are called triggers.
Although anxiety triggers can be different for each person, many triggers are common for people with anxiety disorders.
It’s important to identify your anxiety triggers, as it helps you and your doctor develop an effective treatment plan.
Common Anxiety Triggers
Having a severe illness or a health condition can cause stress buildup and worries about treatment and your future. In some cases, anxiety symptoms may be indicators of a medical illness.
Examples of illnesses that may trigger anxiety include:
- Heart disease
- Drug abuse or withdrawal
- Chronic pain
- Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism
You can reduce anxiety caused by health issues through:
- Regular exercise helps you feel good and may improve the symptoms of your health issues
- Eating healthy meals to boost your energy
- Getting involved. Volunteer in community activities to stay active. This creates a support system and gives you a break from daily worries and stress.
- Talk to your therapist or doctor to help you manage your emotions
Caffeine is the most widely-used and popular drug in the world. About 85% of the U.S population consumes it every day. Besides, there seems to be a correlation between caffeine ingestion and mental health.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists disorders related to caffeine, including:
- Caffeine withdrawal
- Caffeine induced disorders (sleep disorder, anxiety disorder)
A 2008 study found that caffeine elevates alertness by blocking adenosine — a brain chemical that makes you feel tired — and at the same time releasing adrenalin that’s known to boost energy.
High caffeine intake makes these effects stronger, leading to caffeine-induced anxiety.
Moderate caffeine is known to have mental benefits, but high doses cause anxiety symptoms especially for people with social anxiety and panic disorders.
Other studies noted that high caffeine intake causes symptoms similar to psychiatric conditions like sleep and anxiety disorders.
Studies also show that caffeine withdrawal for people used to taking caffeine leads to withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, headaches, depressed mood, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
To avoid these symptoms, talk to your doctor on how to cut off caffeine slowly. Practices like exercise, enough sleep, and staying hydrated also help in cutting off caffeine.
We already know that there is a correlation between what we eat and mental health. New studies have found that delaying or skipping meals, especially breakfast increases the risks of anxiety and depression.
Skipping meals releases stress hormones cortisol to help boost energy. This causes body stress and increased anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Skipping meals also reduces metabolism and alleviates the ability to lose weight which can cause anxiety.
To avoid anxiety brought by skipping meals, ensure you eat three meals in a day. If that’s impossible, healthy snacks may help prevent feelings of anxiety and agitation, as well as prevent low blood sugar.
Lack of Enough Sleep is among the Common Anxiety Triggers
Sleep disturbances are highly linked with major mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Studies show that sleep deprivation increases the stress hormone cortisol — a hormone that helps the brain control your fear, mood, and motivation. Moderate cortisol helps improve mood and reduce stress. Too much cortisol can lead to anxiety, depression, skin bruises, rapid weight gain, muscle weakness, diabetes, and many other health conditions.
Studies have found that people with obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia reported higher rates of anxiety and depression than those without.
To avoid the risks of anxiety and depression, it’s important to find strategies for maintaining good quality sleep. They include:
- Keep your bedroom comfortable, clean, dark, and quiet
- Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking in the evening
- Follow a sleep schedule. Try sleeping and waking up at the same time each day, regardless of how well or bad you slept
- Avoid heavy exercises, meals, or working late in the evening
- Use your bed for sleeping and intimacy with your partner only
Lack of vital nutrients in the body affects your physical and mental energy along with the chemical balances in the brain, causing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Some of these nutrients that can cause anxiety when in deficit include:
- B Vitamins. Low levels of B vitamins are linked with fatigue, irritability, anxiety, and depression. These vitamins are responsible for the production of brain chemicals, like serotonin. Serotonin helps regulate mood, happiness, and anxiety. Low levels of this brain chemical are associated with anxiety and depression.
Sources of B vitamins include beef liver, sardines, cottage cheese just to mention a few.
- Vitamin D. Research shows a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and anxiety, depression, dementia, and even autism. Research shows that people with anxiety reported low levels of calcidiol. Calcidiol is a byproduct of vitamin D.
Studies say that vitamin D supplementation can reduce the risks of both anxiety and depression. Sources of vitamin D include; sunshine, salmon, and fortified milk
- Magnesium. Magnesium is a crucial mineral similar to calcium and iron. It plays a major role in brain health by blocking neurotransmitters that cause stress and anxiety. It also helps regulate stress hormones like cortisol.
Magnesium deficiency increases the risks of stress and anxiety. Magnesium sources include avocados, spinach, oily fish, and dark chocolate.
Common Anxiety Triggers – Take away
Anxiety is common, but severe feelings of worry and fear aren’t common. They are a sign you seek medical help. It’s important to identify and understand anxiety triggers like health issues, unhealthy sleeping habits, and nutritional deficiencies to come up with an effective treatment plan.
If your anxiety affects your daily life, see a mental health specialist to help find the best treatment plan.