Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues across the world. Uo to 33% of people will experience a problem with anxiety during their life and may find themselves affected by the symptoms (Bandelow & Michaelis, 2015). Anxiety disorders can limit an individual’s life, cause a significant amount of distress, and make the person experience a lot of negative situations. To treat and effectively deal with these conditions, it’s important to understand their causes. Are they biological? Knowing more about the causes can help prevent anxiety disorders and treat them more effectively.
First, it seems that there is a genetic element to anxiety disorders. It may be associated with some of the biological circuits that play a role in the condition. This can sound like bad news to many people who can detect anxiety patterns in their family, however, some authors have recently suggested that the inherited factor is not just biological but may concern negative thoughts patterns. We learn how to see the world and ways to think from our parents and caretakers since an early age, so there is a good possibility that the core factor in anxiety is cognition (Bystritsky, Khalsa, Cameron, & Schiffman, 2013).
The cognitive model is widely accepted and explains the mechanism behind anxiety through the ABC approach. Alarm (A) is associated with sensations or reactions to a trigger situation. When the alarm is triggered, the brain responds to it quickly. The ensuing decision that the person makes is based on beliefs (B). The beliefs are based off of previous experience and may lead a person to interpret a neutral situation as a dangerous one, reacting with anxiety to a stimulus that doesn’t merit. it. Finally, there is C or coping strategies. Coping strategies are the activities or behaviors the person chooses to reduce anxiety, and these may be unhealthy or adaptive (Bystritsky, Khalsa, Cameron, & Schiffman, 2013). For example, a person texts their family member and they don’t respond. This sets off the alarm. The person can then interpret the situation according to their beliefs. A person without anxiety may think that the family member is busy. Someone with anxiety may begin to think catastrophically and decide that their family member has experienced something terrible. The coping strategies they may choose when acting under these beliefs are to call everyone in the family, call the family member repeatedly, or begin anticipating calls to the police or hospitals. The coping strategy may be perceived as excessive and out of proportion to the stimulus and cause significant distress.
As mentioned above, cognition can be shaped by previous experience. Individuals with stressful life events, especially those that happened with childhood, seem to be more likely to develop anxiety (Bleakley, 2013). Trauma, abuse, and other adverse events can shape an individual’s view of the world in a more negative way.
Anxiety comes from a variety of causes, and it’s important to address them in the treatment and prevention of the condition. It’s possible to use medication, for example, for the biological aspects, while also employing therapy to change a person’s negative thinking patterns.
Bandelow, B., & Michaelis, S. (2015). Epidemiology of anxiety disorders in the 21st century. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 17(3), 327–335.
Bleakley, S. (2013). Anxiety disorders: clinical features and diagnosis. The Clinical Pharmacist, 5, 281.
Bystritsky, A., Khalsa, S. S., Cameron, M. E., & Schiffman, J. (2013). Current diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 38(1), 30–57.