The causes of anxiety can be very different, from objective external stressors and internal conflicts to certain periods of a person’s life when hormonal changes are observed. There are also many other reasons that can cause increased anxiety, which can lead to anxiety disorders. But we will dwell on this in detail in this article.
Before talking about the causes of pathological anxiety, you should understand what anxiety is in general.
Anxiety is a normal human emotion. Anxiety is divided into adaptive and maladaptive . In other words, into normal and pathological. Maladaptive anxiety is essentially the concept of a psychopathological sign, that is, a painful symptom of anxiety, which is observed in various mental and other diseases.
So, what is normal anxiety? Adaptive anxiety gives a person a signal of danger and arises for objective reasons. The cause of anxiety in this case may be a threatening external situation or the conditions of a meaningful choice. Increased adaptive anxiety with a lack of information and lack of time. It also contributes to the acceleration of decision-making, can be controlled and arbitrarily suppressed.
If we talk about maladaptive or pathological anxiety, then it can be due to internal causes and personal characteristics of a person (for example, anxious personalities). Of course, it can also be provoked by external circumstances, but it may not be associated with a real threat and may not correspond to the significance of the situation. Pathological anxiety blocks decision making, is not subject to subjective control, dominates the mind and has specific clinical manifestations.
Manifestations of anxiety
Pathological anxiety is observed in anxiety disorders, which have become one of the most common diseases in the world. According to some authors, about 31% of people are prone to anxiety disorders, and about 40% of patients have undiagnosed anxiety and comorbid diseases with it. These are disorders such as depression, obsessive- compulsive disorders (OCD), panic attacks (PA), etc. In addition, disorders of this kind are difficult to diagnose, since manifestations of anxiety are often masked by somatic symptoms, as they lead to increased activity ( due to the increased release of adrenaline into the blood) of the sympathetic autonomic system. At the same time, there is an increase in heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased intestinal motility, flatulence (bloating), diarrhea, and then such patients seek help from family doctors, therapists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, and neurologists. And each specialist deals with the pathology corresponding to his profile, prescribes numerous examinations and treatment. And as a result, bodily manifestations of anxiety, which are interpreted by both the patient and the doctor, as symptoms of somatic diseases, are not stopped.
So what are the causes of anxiety?
Increased anxiety can be a constitutional personality trait of a person (anxious personality), the main symptom of anxiety disorders, in particular GAD – generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, episodes of depression, PA, etc., as well as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), schizophrenia, depressive phase in bipolar affective disorder (BAD), organic brain damage, etc. On the other hand, increased anxiety can be a concomitant symptom of some somatic diseases (CHD – coronary heart disease, hypertension, myocardial infarction, hypo- and hyperthyroidism and other endocrine and somatic diseases).
Increased anxiety can be provoked by drugs, drugs and alcohol.
More often, anxiety occurs during critical periods of physiological changes in the body . The occurrence of anxiety is usually associated with biochemical and hormonal conditions that affect the functioning of the central nervous system. This article will cover this aspect in detail, this is the cause of anxiety.
Causes of anxiety in children
If we talk about a healthy person, then the first life stage in which an increase in anxiety is recorded is 6-7 years old – one of the age periods that is characterized by an increase in the number of anxiety states is primary school age. The causes of anxiety in children in this case are their integration into a completely new and unfamiliar environment. They begin to contact a large number of strangers: new classmates and teachers. There are also significant information overloads and adaptation to a new type of activity – study. Imagine how confused a child is if only yesterday he was playing carelessly on the playground with two or three friends, and today he is brought to a class where there are thirty completely unfamiliar children, and for some reason a strict teacher demands to sit quietly and listen to her. Such conditions destabilize the child, he cannot quickly rebuild. In addition, important changes in the functioning of the central nervous system occur at this age, and the functional connections of brain structures that are not yet fully formed, which are very vulnerable under high load conditions, occur at this age. The need to adapt as quickly as possible to suddenly changing environmental conditions leads to disturbances in the form of increased anxiety.
The next critical period in human development, from the point of view of the risk of increased anxiety, falls on adolescence . Therefore, in the study of the biochemical prerequisites for the formation of anxiety states, an important place is occupied by studies of the emotional sphere of adolescents. It is during the pubertal period that stable relationships are formed between the central nervous system, endocrine glands and the reproductive system. As you know, active restructuring in the human body of adolescence has a noticeable effect on the affective sphere. In adolescents, the activity of the sympathoadrenal system increases. The sympathoadrenal system is the link between the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal medulla. It is crucial in the body’s physiological response to stress.
As already mentioned, the causes of anxiety in adolescents are predominantly biological in nature. The age at which the sympathoadrenal system reaches its peak of activity depends on the gender of the person: for boys it is 14 years old, and for girls it is 12-13 years old.
An increase in the activity of the sympathetic autonomic nervous system is responsible for the optimal supply of energy and adaptation of the body to external conditions. These processes are biologically expedient during the period of active development of the organism. The predominance of excitatory influences of the hypothalamic-pituitary system, which is characteristic of adolescence, leads to weakness of inhibitory processes, increasing excitability, emotional lability and anxiety. A. M. Prikhozhan in the monograph “Anxiety in children and adolescents: psychological nature and age dynamics” for 2000, argues that the state of increased excitability of the central nervous system during puberty can provoke anxiety disorders.
After the completion of puberty, there are no more periods of such active hormonal changes in the process of human development. But, the type and properties of the nervous system continue to predetermine a person’s predisposition to the formation of increased anxiety in conditions of ongoing stress. So, for example, students with a weak type of nervous system are more prone to anxiety than students with a strong type of higher nervous activity.
Causes of Anxiety in Adults
If we talk about the causes of anxiety in adults, then most often it is caused not only by the external influence of the environment, but also by internal conflicts, as well as by the typological properties of neurodynamic processes, somatic and mental diseases.
Causes of anxiety in the elderly
A considerable number of causes of anxiety in the elderly is associated with a general decline in their somatic health, self-esteem, deterioration in physical condition, value orientations, as well as with age-related brain hypoxia.
There is also a tendency for older people to experience anxiety and severe stress, a decrease in cerebral blood flow, changes in energy metabolism, a decrease in glucose hypometabolism , and destructive processes in brain cells. Due to problems with cerebral blood flow, older people also have a hard time enduring a situation of prolonged stress and anxiety.
E. A. Nefedova in the article “Dynamics of anxiety disorders in a somatic hospital”, which was published in the Bulletin of the Medical Internet Conference in 2014, wrote that the level of human anxiety directly depends on the severity of coronary heart disease and hypertension. According to the results of her study, the older the patient’s age and the lower his social status, the more pronounced increased anxiety and emotional instability.
Particular attention in understanding the causes of anxiety should be given to the elderly. In addition to social factors, the elderly are also affected by chronic somatic diseases, including mental ones.
Many authors note that the prevalence of anxiety and depression in elderly patients with cardiovascular disease is 55.6%.
The following dynamics of anxiety in the elderly is also observed, depending on the course of the disease. For example, patients with osteoporosis without fractures have moderate anxiety, while patients with fractures are characterized by a high level of anxiety.
So, when analyzing the causes of anxiety, with due attention it is necessary to take into account a certain age stage of human development and the structural and functional changes of the body characteristic of this stage. After all, they can be the main factors in the occurrence of anxiety in humans.
Causes of anxiety in women
The prerequisites for the formation of anxiety depend not only on the age of a person, but also on his gender. The causes of anxiety in women differ to some extent from those in men. Against the background of prolonged stress, women are more likely to experience increased anxiety. Also in the study by S. Nishizawa , C. Benkelfat , the results of which were published in the article ” Differences Between Males and Females in rates of Serotonin Synthesis in Human Brain ” in 2007 found that in men, the synthesis of serotonin in the brain occurs 52% more actively than in women. The authors of the study suggest that this is the reason for the increased tendency of women to anxiety and depression.
The high level of anxiety in women of mature age is explained by hormonal changes during menopause. Also, high anxiety in postmenopausal women is associated with the presence of a prolonged estrogen deficiency at this time.
Reduced estrogen saturation weakens the sensitivity to neurotransmitter receptors, including serotonin, which is responsible for the appearance of increased anxiety.
Increased, compared with men, anxiety in women due to biochemical characteristics. In the female body, there is a relationship of low activity of the enzyme that regulates ketelamine neurotransmitter systems, and an increased incidence of anxiety disorders. It is noteworthy that men do not have such a pattern.
Based on modern scientific data, we can conclude that the formation of anxiety largely depends on the physiological characteristics of the body, the personality characteristics of a person, as well as somatic or mental diseases, in which increased anxiety can be observed as a painful symptom. That is why understanding the causes of anxiety is very important for the correct timely diagnosis and correction of these conditions.
If you notice signs of increased anxiety in yourself or your loved ones, you should not hesitate. The best solution would be to determine the causes of anxiety, diagnose and treat the corresponding disease, timely contact a psychiatrist who will select the best solution and help you return to your usual way of life in the near future.