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What Triggers Anxiety Attacks?

panic, anxiety attack

Anxiety refers to feelings of worry, tension, or fear, particularly in relation to things that are about to happen or things we think can happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural response to threatening situations or stimuli and can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. Although anxiety is common and can occur in anyone from time to time, it’s beneficial for individuals who struggle with anxiety disorders to identify what triggers anxiety attacks to best manage their symptoms and live a fulfilling and happy lifestyle.

Understanding Anxiety  

Most people experience anxiety from time to time. It’s particularly common to experience some anxiety while coping with stressful changes or life events, especially if they have the potential to cause a major impact. You may also be anxious about any upcoming events, such as an entry exam for medical school or an important interview for a new job. Anxiety is also a common physical response to stress and threats. 

When we feel threatened, our bodies react by releasing certain hormones, particularly cortisol and adrenaline, which can be helpful in situations where we have to protect ourselves. These hormones increase alertness, energy, and heart rate, allowing us to act faster while blood and oxygen are sent to the areas of the body that need them the most. This response is called the fight or flight response, and after the threat has passed, our bodies will usually relax. 

For some people, however, anxiety may occur more frequently and for less threatening reasons. The calming period following an anxiety attack can also take longer for individuals with anxiety disorders. Ultimately, anxiety becomes a problem when it interferes with your ability to live life the way you want to. 

Signs anxiety has become a problem include: 

  • Frequent anxiety attacks, even when there’s no major threat or reason 
  • Strong anxiety that lasts for long periods
  • Avoidance of situations that might cause anxiety
  • Distressing worries or fears that are hard to control
  • Regular occurrences of anxiety symptoms, including panic attacks
  • Difficulty completing simple tasks or going about your day due to anxiety

If you can relate to most or all of these points, then you may have an anxiety disorder. It’s best to meet with a medical professional to receive a diagnosis. Banyan Pompano also offers various Broward County mental health services that can help you or a loved one begin treatment. 

What Triggers an Anxiety Attack?  

Everyone’s experience with anxiety is different. There are also different anxiety disorders, each of which comes with different symptoms and contributing factors. Common types of anxiety include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), agoraphobia (fear of crowded places, being where escape is difficult, or of leaving one’s home,) panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and others. 

A person is more likely to experience anxiety or develop an anxiety disorder if they’ve experienced childhood abuse, money problems, high-stress situations, isolation or loneliness, physical health problems, or other mental health problems, to name a few factors. Considering that there’s no one cause of anxiety, it’s important for individuals with this problem to recognize what triggers anxiety attacks and the symptoms they commonly experience so they can learn to cope with them in a healthy manner. 

With that said, below are some common triggers for anxiety to look out for: 

  • Caffeine: Among the many things that trigger anxiety, caffeine is at the top of our list. While it can be a great pick-me-up in small doses, too much caffeine can be a trigger that worsens existing anxiety. Because it’s designed to increase energy levels and can even have physical symptoms like increased heart rate, caffeine can contribute to an anxiety attack or make one worse. Therefore, if you’re a coffee lover, we encourage you to cut back on your intake. 
  • Messy environment: This one often surprises people. A messy home isn’t a stress point for everyone, but it can have a huge impact on someone with anxiety. If you’re one of these people, we recommend tidying up your home environment to see if it helps you manage your day-to-day symptoms. However, don’t pressure yourself to do it all at once, as this could also cause anxiety. Instead, make a daily to-do list, break up your tasks, and tackle your home or room one corner at a time. 
  • Self-neglect: Self-neglect and self-care play huge roles in managing anxiety. Neglecting yourself includes not showering regularly, skipping meals, binging on carby and sugary foods, and staying up too late. Especially if you’ve noticed a spike in your anxiety attacks or symptoms, it’s important to reevaluate your lifestyle and consider the habits that require improvement. 
  • Lack of sleep: Lack of sleep is linked to numerous physical and mental health problems, so it makes sense that not getting enough sleep can worsen your anxiety. While staying up late occasionally won’t cause major harm, neglecting sleep frequently or over long periods can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Therefore, small changes like practicing good sleep hygiene or creating a better sleep schedule can make a world of difference. 
  • Stress: Unfortunately, stress isn’t entirely avoidable in life. For this reason, it’s important to learn how to manage stress for anxiety. Some healthy ways to cope with stress include regular exercise, eating a healthy and balanced diet, staying organized, and spending time with loved ones. 
  • Financial problems: Finances are often stressful, meaning they can also be anxiety-inducing. If you feel as if your spending is getting out of control or you’re struggling to pay off some debt, create a financial plan. Make a list of your debts and how much money you have, and create a budget and plan for paying everything off and managing your spending after you do so. 
  • Social gatherings: There are various types of anxiety, one of the most common being social anxiety or social phobia. People with this kind of anxiety disorder are triggered by the idea of and/or interacting with people. This can be caused by strangers, acquaintances, or even close friends. If you believe you struggle with this form of anxiety, it’s best to seek out professional care. Our Broward County drug rehab offers anxiety treatment, among other mental health services, that can either help you or a loved one learn how to best manage symptoms. 
  • Work environment: A stressful job or work environment can definitely trigger anxiety. While work-related stress is normal from time to time, it’s abnormal for it to be a daily part of your job for months or years. Unfortunately, this can be a more difficult trigger to manage, especially if you’re in a position that is known to cause stress, such as if you are a surgeon or a lawyer. You could work with a mental health professional to come up with ways to manage work-related stress and better cope with your anxiety. 
  • Confrontation/conflict: Any type of conflict can trigger anxiety, whether this is with a co-worker, spouse, parent, or child. Fortunately, there are various conflict resolution techniques you can utilize for managing this anxiety trigger.

Get Mental Health Support Today

Understanding what triggers anxiety attacks and symptoms can prepare you for properly coping with your disorder in the long run. You also don’t have to do this alone. Our Pompano Beach treatment center offers various therapy programs for mental health in addition to disorder-specific treatment that can aid in your recovery or that of a loved one. 

For more information about our addiction and mental health treatment in Pompano, call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4863 or send us your contact information, and we’ll reach out to you.

Related Reading: 

Expert Tips for Managing Anxiety Without Medication

Social Anxiety and Alcohol: When Drinking Becomes Your Crutch

Top Books on Managing Anxiety

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
What Triggers Anxiety Attacks?
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