In part one we looked at the different type of anxiety disorders. In this post lets look at the causes of anxiety. The causes will not necessarily help us cure the anxiety ; the cures are independent of whether we know how the anxiety disorder developed. So we can still heal without knowing what caused our anxiety disorder. Usually there are multiple causes operating at different levels that give rise to the anxiety condition; that is why it is rarely possible to cure someone by eliminating just one causal factor. Some of the causes that causes anxiety maybe hereditary, biological, family background and upbringing, conditioning, recent life changes, our self talk, our personal belief system, our ability to express feeling, our current environmental stressors etc. But in addition the duration or the length of time the anxiety causing factor was present also contribute to final outcome of the anxiety disorder.
Long term predisposing factors are conditions that sets one up from birth or childhood to develop anxiety difficulties later on; such as heredity, dysfunctional parenting, or early trauma or abuse ; for example parental neglect, rejection, over criticism, over punishment, over cautiousness, alcoholism, or physical and/or sexual abuse.
Recent circumstantial causes include situations where there is a heightened level of stress over the past few months such as significant loss, significant life change e.g. major move, starting a new job, illness or recreational drug use - especially cocaine, amphetamines, or marijuana.
Maintaining causes are those factors that are currently in ones behaviour, attitude and lifestyle that keeps anxiety going once it has developed. These include muscle tension, fearful self talk-”what if” thinking, mistaken beliefs about self, others, or life; continued avoidance of fear or fearful situation; lack of movement and exercise; caffeine, sugar, and junk food consumption; lack of self nurturing skills; excessively complicated lifestyle and environment; indulging in habit of worry; and low self-confidence and self worth, feeling one is a “victim” rather than empowered to ” take charge” of anxiety.
Lastly there are neurobiological causes which include deficiencies and imbalances of neurotransmitters;excessive reactivity of certain brain structures such as amygdala and locus ceruleus; insufficient inhibition of excessive reactivity by the higher brain centres such as the frontal or temporal cortex.
Treating anxiety without drugs is most helpful by modifying the ” maintaining causes” above, they are those factors that keeps the anxiety going once it has been established. The anxiety from other causes are indirectly helped once the maintaining causes are eliminated. It is hard to do anything for hereditary factors but one can learn to change ones behaviour to anxiety. The childhood trauma and abuse needs treatment usually from a qualified therapist.
In the next post we will look at some specific techniques for coping with the anxiety and the role for medication.
Coping with Anxiety
By Edmund Bourne & Lorna Garano