What Causes Anxiety?
Everyone experiences some degree of anxiety from time to time. It’s coded into our DNA as part of the ‘fight or flight’ self-defense mechanism. In that context, anxiety produces a heightened state of awareness to potential threats and is a precursor to either standing and defending oneself (fight) or fleeing (flight). But for some people that heightened state of awareness can morph into an almost constant state of worry. Or an exaggerated sense of dread when faced with even the most mundane of threats or conditions. But what causes anxiety?
Diagnosing Anxiety Disorders
When diagnosing anxiety disorders mental health professionals look for:
- Moodiness and irritability
- Difficulty sleeping
- A general sense of restlessness
- Problems concentrating
- Muscle tension.
If 3 out of these 6 indicators are positive and have been for more than 6 months, a diagnosis of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is usually made.
What Causes Anxiety
Once the anxiety disorder diagnosis has been made it’s important to try and pin down the cause so that effective treatment can be initiated. There are several potential factors recognized by mental health professionals as potential causes of anxiety. They are:
- Stressful Situations – A person who has been in an unfulfilling or abusive relationship for a long time may wind up developing an anxiety disorder. The same can be said for people in stressful jobs, those with longstanding stressful family relationships or those who have experienced a series of losses. Pregnancy and giving birth can also generate prolonged anxiety as can moving to a new and wholly unfamiliar place.
- Family History – In many cases, children of anxious parents will grow up to share their parents’ anxiety-driven view of the world. Some of this may be the result of genetics but it may also be, at least in part, learned behavior. Children figure out how to deal with the world by watching and listening to their parents. If parents are constantly anxious, children may conclude this is the normal way to be.
- Health Problems – Even people who never had any particular issues with anxiety beforehand can succumb to anxiety as a result of persistent health problems. We only have one body after all. When it comes under threat that threat is going to generate some level of anxiety. If the threat persists or worsens and lingers for a prolonged period of time normal anxiety can morph into an anxiety disorder. Chronic health problems that are known to generate elevated anxiety levels include diabetes (both types 1 and 2), high blood pressure, respiratory conditions like asthma and severe seasonal allergies.
- Substance Use and Abuse – Alcohol abuse can create a spiral of dysfunction that generates persistently high levels of anxiety. The person’s finances become more precarious, their work-life and reputation take hits, their health declines and they become more isolated. Anxiety levels skyrocket as a result. Alcohol can also cause chemical changes in the brain that perpetuate anxiety. The person will often drink more to alleviate their anxiety. But that just worsens the downward spiral. The same pathology typically applies with drug abuse. But drugs and alcohol are not the only substances that can create anxiety. Caffeine is often the hidden force behind a person’s anxiety. To that point, weight loss pills, which are typically loaded with caffeine, are also often guilty of producing high levels of anxiety in people who use them.
- Personality Traits – In some cases, people who are perfectionists often suffer acute anxiety. They feel pressure, (almost always coming from within), to make sure everything they do is flawless. While this personality trait can lead to great achievement, it can also be the source of steady, debilitating anxiety. In addition, people who lack self-esteem often experience a more or less constant, low-level state of anxiety which peaks in stressful situations.
- Mental Health Factors and Learning Disabilities – In some cases, what causes anxiety may be another, more serious mental health issue. Clinical depression, for instance, often generates a more or less constant state of anxiety in the sufferer. Likewise, the anxiety might stem from a learning disability. People who suffer dyslexia often develop a sense of dread when it comes to school or professional work. They fear being ‘exposed’ or fear that their disability will somehow undermine their academic or professional efforts.
What new treatments are available for anxiety?
There are many treatments available today for anxiety. Of those treatments, IV ketamine is considered one of the most promising to come along in several decades. If you or a loved one is suffering from anxiety we invite you to give our office a call today to schedule a consultation to learn more. During your consultation, we will discuss the available treatment options and see if you are a good candidate for Ketamine infusion therapy. The combination of deep TMS with IV ketamine can be particularly helpful for alleviating anxiety.