What Causes Anxiety


New technologies are enabling researchers and scientists to learn more about the biological, psychological, and social factors that influence the development of an anxiety disorder. With a better understanding of underlying causes, better treatment and even prevention measures will be possible.

The following are all believed to play a role in the occurrence of anxiety disorders:

  • heredity
  • brain chemistry
  • personality
  • life experiences

Heredity and anxiety disorders:

There is clear evidence that anxiety disorders run in families. Studies show that if one identical twin has an anxiety disorder, the second twin is more likely to have an anxiety disorder than non-identical (fraternal) twins. These findings suggest that a genetic factor, possibly activated in combination with life experiences, predisposes some people to these disorders.

Brain chemistry and anxiety disorders:

Because symptoms of anxiety disorders are often relieved by medications that alter levels of chemicals in the brain, scientists believe that brain chemistry appears to play a role in the onset of anxiety disorders.

Personality and anxiety disorders:

Researchers believe that personality may play a role in the development of an anxiety disorder, noting that people who have low self-esteem and poor coping skills may be more prone. Conversely, an anxiety disorder that begins in childhood may itself contribute to the development of low self-esteem.

Life experiences and anxiety disorders:

Researchers believe that the relationship between anxiety disorders and long-term exposure to abuse, violence, or poverty is an important area for further study, as life experiences may affect an individual's susceptibility to these disorders.


University of Maryland Medical Center

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