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Cause of Anxiety

QUESTION: What is the cause of anxiety?


The cause of anxiety cannot be linked to a single situation or event. Rather, many psychoanalysts believe that there are both physical and environmental triggers that combine to create a particular anxiety disorder.

For example some psychoanalysts feel anxiety stems from unconscious conflicts that arise from past fearful experiences. These experiences can prime the person to react anxiously to situations where most people would experiences no fear. Other scientists link anxiety disorders to a biochemical imbalance in the brain that can be alleviated through the use of medication or natural food supplements.

Still other theorists believe anxiety is a learned behavior which can be unlearned with the help of therapy and lifestyle changes. The most recent research being done is in the field of genetics. Scientists are trying to find out if we are born with a particular gene that causes anxiety disorders. Whatever the theory, heredity, life experiences, personality, or biochemical imbalance, anxiety is a debilitating disorder that millions of Americans cope with each day.

Research shows that we inherit a lot of who we are physically and psychologically. Is the same true of anxiety? The answer is yes and no. There is clear scientific evidence towards anxiety running in family genetics. Studies done on identical twins have shown when one identical twin develops an anxiety disorder, there is a greater chance the second twin will also develop an anxiety disorder.

Other research has also shown that if parents suffer from anxiety, there is greater chance the child will also suffer from anxiety. There is still some debate over whether the behavior was hereditary or learned.

A link between a gene and fearful responses in mice has been discovered in resent studies, but research is far from conclusive. Even if anxiety disorders are hereditary - passed from parents to children - a great number of psychoanalysts feel genetics alone does not predispose a person to develop anxiety. Instead, the cause of the anxiety disorder is a combination of genetics and life experiences

There is an abundance of discussion regarding the idea of past life experiences as being the main cause of anxiety disorders. If a child grows up in a stressful environment, are they more likely to develop anxiety? Researchers believe there is a relationship to long term abuse, violence, poverty or stress, and the devolvement of anxiety disorders.

An example of this would be a person who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD develops when a person finds himself or herself being placed into a situation where they feel a high sense of fear, stress, and helplessness.

Some researches still feel life experiences alone do not determine whether a person will or will not develop anxiety. These researchers believe personality may play a major role in how well a person deals with whatever life throws their way. This is based on the idea that people who have low self esteem or bad coping skills seem to be more prone to developing anxiety than do people with higher self-esteem and good coping skills. People who have low self esteem or bad coping skills tend to look at situations as more of a challenge, which results in greater amount of self inflicted stress. These stressors if left unchecked result in the devotement of anxiety.

Still other scientists look to faulty brain chemistry as the underlying cause of anxiety. This is probably the most widely accepted theory of why people develop anxiety, but it is also the one theory highly debated. This theory has become widely accepted since the symptoms of anxiety can be treated with medications.

People suffering from anxiety and depression are thought to have altered levels of neurotransmitters. The two chief chemicals involved are noradrenaline and serotonin. Nerve cells in the brain constantly produce, release, and reabsorb serotonin. The depletion of serotonin in the brain causes faulty messages to be sent between nerve cells, which can result in anxiety, and depression.

When given medications, the levels of neurotransmitters are regulated therefore relieving the symptoms of anxiety and depression. The debate over the brain chemistry theory centers on the issue of whether the person would have improved even without the medications.

Each of these theories, heredity, life experiences, brain chemistry, and personality, are plausible causes of anxiety. With new advances in technologies, there will be greater understanding of anxiety disorders and better methods of treatment.

Learn More About Anxiety

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