Factors that can increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder include the following.
Everyone encounters stress, but excessive or unresolved stress can increase your chances of developing chronic anxiety.
In 2019, the authors of a review examined evidence of neurobiological links between stress and anxiety from various studies. They concluded that neural features in specific parts of the brain, such as the amygdala — which plays a role in processing fearful and threatening stimuli — may help explain how stress contributes to anxiety.
If someone in your family has an anxiety disorder, you may have a greater risk of developing one too. Social and economic factors can play a role, but growing evidence suggests that genetic features might also contribute.
A 2019 study looked at links between genetic features and anxiety and stress-related disorders. The authors concluded that if you have specific genetic features, you might be more prone to anxiety. These features could be hereditary.
Certain personality traits may affect your risk of developing anxiety and anxiety disorders.
A group of followed 489 first-year university students for 6 years to see how certain outlooks — such as a tendency to experience negative feelings, extraversion, and introversion — might affect their risk of developing anxiety and depression.
They found that those who were hypercritical of themselves, had difficulty with criticism, or experienced a lot of negative thoughts and feelings as young adults were also more likely to develop panic disorder, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and major depressive disorder over time.
Agoraphobia was also more common among those who scored high on a scale for introversion, rather than extroversion.
While these may act as “vulnerability factors,” the authors suggest that they are probably part of a far more complex picture.
A recent or past event, such as experiencing abuse or participating in military combat, can increase your risk of developing anxiety. It can also happen if you are close to someone who’s the victim of trauma or have witnessed something traumatic.
Many people experience anxiety after a shocking or frightening incident; this is known as acute distress disorder (ASD). But ongoing symptoms could be a sign of -traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms usually start within 3 monthsTrusted Source of the event, but they can appear months or years later.
- bad dreams
- feeling constantly on edge
- difficulty sleeping
- angry outbursts
- avoiding places or situations that could trigger stress symptoms
In some cases, ASD become PTSD, but this does not always happen.
People who experience racial discrimination have a higher risk of developing anxiety and anxiety disorders, even after taking genetic factors into account.
Authors of a published in 2021 concluded that discrimination is a risk factor for anxiety. The authors called for greater awareness of how racism and other forms of discrimination and social exclusion can affect people’s mental health.
Health America (MHA) notes that, in the United States, Black people and Indigenous People of Color are at risk of race-based traumatic stress injury (RBTS).
RBTS can affect you if you have experienced an “emotionally painful, sudden, and uncontrollable racist encounter.” Symptoms are similar to those of PTSD and can affect a wider community. MHA points out that, unlike PTSD, RBTS refers to a mental injury rather than a mental health disorder.
Studies suggest that females are more likely than males to experience anxiety and develop an anxiety disorder, although this may depend to some extent on the disorder.
Rates of the following appear to be among females than males:
- panic disorder
- generalized anxiety disorder
- separation anxiety
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
However, males and females may be equally prone to social anxiety disorder (SAD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD and SAD are also the most likely anxiety disorders to affect males.
The reason is likely to be a combination of biological and social or cultural factors, and there is still more work to do to find out how each contributes, say the experts.
For people with gender dysphoria, the gender people assigned them at birth does not match with the gender they identify with.
This can lead to turmoil and anxiety, but it can also increase your risk of conflict with people around you, especially if those around you have rigid perceptions of male and female roles.
show that many people with gender dysphoria are at risk of:
- anxiety and anxiety disorders
- thoughts of suicide
- substance use
There are various ways in which a person’s health can contribute to stress, such as:
- past and present experience of mental and physical well-being
- having a chronic illness that poses challenges to daily living
- having a disease that causes very challenging symptoms, such as palpitations
- having a condition where anxiety is a symptom, such as a hormonal imbalance
These will not necessarily lead to an anxiety disorder.
As with trauma, life events can increase your risk of stress and anxiety, according to the Institute of Stress.
- losing a loved one
- divorce or separation
- spending time in the criminal justice system
- injury or illness
- financial pressures or a loss of employment
- major changes, such as moving in a new house or getting married
A person can experience these events without developing an anxiety disorder, although some may do so.
Some drugs can cause anxiety as a side effect, or they may cause symptoms that feel like anxiety.
- drugs containing caffeine, such as Migraine, which can cause irritability
- drugs to treat ADHD, such as
- corticosteroids, such as
- some asthma medications, such as -salmeterol (Advair Diskus), which can cause tremors
- (Dilantin), an anti-seizure medication
- , a drug for Parkinson’s disease