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What are the primary causes of Anxiety?

What are the primary causes of Anxiety?

Primitive Causes of Anxiety

When the perception is that there is danger lurking around every corner, then it is wise to stay on red alert. Anxiety can be seen as a natural consequence of living in the dangerous world inhabited by our ancestors. In this sense, anxiety is a primitive response to perceived danger or crisis and is still a very active brain function today. Although we cannot rid ourselves completely of anxious responses, nor would we want to, we can address our thought patterns in order to call up our brain’s executive function. We have the ability to override this primitive response, and Changes Welcome practitioners are very skilled at helping people to achieve this.

Individual Causes of Anxiety

Causes of AnxietyIt is not the external events that occur, which necessarily give rise to a perception of crisis. If that were so, then everyone would react in exactly the same way to any given set of circumstances, and we know this is not the case. So it must be the thought patterns, which surround the events of our lives, which can act as triggers or causes of anxiety. Causes of anxiety will differ between individuals. This depends upon variables such as how personally we take events, how pervasive we view events to be, and how permanent we think an event is. This is also referred to as our attributional style. So, if we take things personally, interpret events as all pervasive and think that a shortcoming or a setback will last forever, then an increased amount of negative emotion will follow. In fact, every negative thought we have is converted into anxiety, and the type of explanation we give ourselves about our external environment is of the utmost importance when looking at the causes of anxiety in our lives.

Anxiety and the Brain

The brain effectively engages what can be described as an emergency hot line to its fear centre, the amygdala. Also referred to as the fight, flight, depression and freeze area of the brain, the amygdala sends the equivalent of an all-points bulletin that alerts other brain structures. The result is the classic fear response and can even result in a panic attack (aka Anxiety Attack). All this happens before the mind is conscious of having sensed anything. So, we are afraid, even before we know why. Anxiety is a first response.

Learned Causes of Anxiety

The Amygdala also notes all kinds of possible panic ‘situations’ and stores them for future reference. Not surprisingly then, for many people, the association is often with the environment where the anxiety was created – the supermarket, the lecture room, the motorway etc. It is possible that there is a dormant template, often created in childhood, which was ready to be activated by the over vigilant, over sensitive mind. What we know is that the noose tightens as the primitive mind increases its control, often restricting that person’s ability to continue with any normal life.

Every negative thought that we have is converted into anxiety. We can create anxiety responses as a result of the happenings in our lives. In other words, they can be learned. In this way, our external environment is one of the main causes of anxiety. We can learn tendencies such as ‘being a worrier’, ‘being negative’, or ‘being miserable’ (just like other family members – particularly parents).

Future Related Anxiety

Part of the ‘genetic accident’ gave us that unfortunate ability to negatively introspect about both the future and the past. We can create anxiety by negatively forecasting the future. Examples include major events like “I’ll never get a decent job”, “I’ll never find a partner”, “I’ll never clear my debts” etc. But it can also be an accumulation of smaller things. The mind cannot differentiate imagination from reality as far as our emotional responses are concerned. So, if we imagine something going wrong and start worrying about it, then anxiety will inevitably be created. For example a meeting. We may intellectually know that the meeting is going to go OK, as they generally do. However, despite this we start thinking about things going wrong and do this let’s say 50 times. Ultimately, even though the actual meeting may have gone pretty well, the mind will have attended 51 meetings and failed at 50 of them.

Past Related Anxiety

We can also negatively introspect about the past. Thoughts such as “I shouldn’t have done that”, “I shouldn’t have said that”, or beating yourself up about or dwelling on a past event can all be direct causes of anxiety.

Anxiety Causes Stress Causes Anxiety!

Every negative thought that we have is accumulated and stored. The emotional brain will interpret negativity as some form of stress. So, anxiety can accumulate into what we refer to as stress. When we are stressed we are programmed to think negatively. When we meet a perceived threat or danger we are not supposed to think that it is benign, or that everything is safe. That type of thinking obviously could cause our downfall. Even when the source of the high-stress level is, in fact, the result of a person’s negative thought patterns, the primitive mind will paradoxically add to the pain and confusion by scanning the environment to find the source of alarm. So, a person suffering from stress will automatically tend to think negatively. Here we can find ourselves in the grips of a bit of a vicious circle; the more stressed we are feeling, the more we are encouraged to be vigilant or negative thinking, and the more focus we will have on what can go wrong, and thus the more anxiety will be created, which only adds to our stress.


Given the right help from the right therapist or professional practitioner, these unwanted thought patterns can be effectively addressed and learned negative tendencies can be overcome or replaced by positive ones.

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