Although researchers don’t know exactly why some people experience anxiety disorders, they do know that there are various factors involved. Like many other mental health conditions, anxiety disorders seem to be a result of a combination of biological, psychological, and other individual factors.
How we think and react to certain situations can affect anxiety. Some people may perceive certain situations to be more dangerous than they actually are (e.g., fear of flying). Others may have had a bad experience and they fear this will happen again (e.g., a dog bite). Some psychologists believe that childhood experiences can also contribute to anxiety.
Researchers know that problems with brain chemistry can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders. Certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain involved in anxiety include serotonin, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Researchers have also shown that changes in activity in certain areas of the brain are involved in anxiety. Many anxiety disorders run in families and likely have a genetic cause.
Certain medical conditions such as anemia and thyroid problems can also cause symptoms of anxiety. As well, other factors such as caffeine, alcohol, and certain medications can cause anxiety symptoms.
Traumatic life events such as the death of a family member, witnessing a death, war, and natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes may trigger anxiety disorders.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent intrusive ideas, thoughts, impulses or images (obsessions) which often result in performing compulsive rituals over and over again. Typical compulsions are washing, checking and arranging things, and counting. These actions give individuals with OCD only temporary relief from their anxiety. With early diagnosis and the right treatment, people can avoid the suffering that comes with OCD.
Phobias and Panic Disorders
Phobias and panic disorders are included in a group of mental illnesses known as anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are among the most common type of mental health problems, affecting one out of every ten Canadians. In spite of this startling statistic, anxiety disorders are not well understood, and those experiencing these conditions are often regarded as “weak, self-indulgent or undisciplined”.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by reliving a psychologically traumatic situation, long after any physical danger involved has passed, through flashbacks and nightmares.
Understanding Anxiety Disorders
Your heart is racing; it’s pounding so hard you feel like it is coming out of your chest. Your mouth has gone dry but at the same time, sweat has broken out all over your body. Dizziness and nausea are threatening to overwhelm you and you can’t catch your breath. Do you have an anxiety disorder?