What is an anxiety disorder?

Most of us worry or feel anxious at some point in our lives but people with anxiety disorders find it especially difficult to control and keep their worries in perspective. If you’re experiencing a persistent feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Complete our anxiety questionnaire to find out if you are and how mild or severe your symptoms are.

Causes of anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders aren’t caused by a single event or factor but have a complicated network of causes, including:

Personal factors

Most importantly, anxiety is often an internal conflict that is not readily apparent but causes symptoms of anxiety. If there is something repressed in a person’s psychology this can also cause anxiety. Parental anxiety can also produce an anxious child through modeling and implicit messages that the world is unsafe or one is not capable of. It’s important to find out the reason for anxiety which is unique to each person.

Environmental factors

Elements in the environment and external events can increase anxiety. Stress from work, a personal relationship, school, or your financial situation can contribute to anxiety disorders. Even low oxygen levels in high-altitude areas, lack of privacy, and high noise pollution can have been found to exacerbate anxiety symptoms.


There is evidence to suggest that some people are more genetically predisposed to experience anxiety than others.

Brain chemistry

Psychologists and neurologists define many anxiety and mood disorders as disruptions to hormones and electrical signals in the brain. Stressful or traumatic experiences and genetic factors can actually alter brain structure and function to react more vigorously to triggers that would not previously have caused significant anxiety.

Medical factors

Other health conditions can lead to an anxiety disorder. For example, the side effects of medication, symptoms of a disease, or stress from a serious underlying medical condition might be causing significant lifestyle adjustments, pain, or restricted movement which may be partly responsible for triggering the symptoms seen in anxiety disorder.

Use of or withdrawal from an illicit substance

Research suggests that cocaine induces panic attacks in some people and that withdrawal from it can lead to severe anxiety. Amphetamine withdrawal can also induce severe anxiety and depression and excessive use may lead to brain neuron damage that could be permanent. Ecstasy too is thought to induce anxiety, depersonalising, panic, and exacerbating the person’s prevailing mood. Taking amphetamines and LSD can also cause hallucinations and paranoia. Research, again, suggests that heavy use of cannabis/marijuana may make a latent or existing mental disorder worse.

The stress of day-to-day living combined with any of the above might serve as key contributors to an anxiety disorder. We can apply a variety of different psychotherapy approaches when treating chronic anxiety.

Types of anxiety disorder

Some commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders include: