The causes of anxiety and related disorders can be complicated, though certain situations might cause symptoms of anxiety to get worse for some people. Identifying your anxiety triggers and developing coping mechanisms is helpful in managing this condition. Learn about common triggers, how to identify yours and how to manage anxiety triggers.
What are Anxiety Triggers?
An anxiety trigger is an event, emotion or experience that can cause anxiety or worsen symptoms. These triggers differ from person to person, though there are ways you can identify your own to help you manage the symptoms a little easier. A mental health professional can also help you determine your anxiety triggers.
The following are situations that may trigger anxiety:
1. Health Issues
Receiving a diagnosis for a chronic illness or disease can often trigger anxiety or make it worse. Health problems are a powerful source of stress due to the immediate, personal feelings a diagnosis can produce.
You can reduce this type of trigger by staying proactive and engaged with your doctor. Talking with a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or counselor, can also help you manage your emotions surrounding your diagnosis.
Certain medications and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs may trigger anxiety symptoms. That’s because the active ingredients in these medicines can make you feel uneasy or on edge. These feelings may set off a series of thoughts in your mind or bodily reactions that may cause additional symptoms of anxiety.
Examples of medicines that may trigger anxiety include:
- Cough and decongestion medications
- Thyroid medications
- Asthma medications
Speak with your doctor if you find that your medications are worsening your anxiety. They could help you switch to a different medication that won’t trigger or worsen your anxiety.
Many people turn to coffee first thing in the morning to help them wake up. However, you may want to skip caffeine altogether if you have anxiety. Experts have noted caffeine’s adverse effects on those with anxiety by either worsening their symptoms or triggering the condition.
While high levels of caffeine can increase nervousness, it can also decrease the feel-good chemical serotonin in the body, resulting in a depressed mood. Try to reduce caffeine by substituting your morning drink for a noncaffeinated option whenever possible and avoiding energy drinks or sodas with caffeine.
4. Skipping Meals
When you don’t eat, your blood sugar drops. When this occurs, you might feel jittery and on edge — feelings that often trigger anxiety.
What we put into our bodies affects our mental health. Eating a balanced meal will work to strengthen your brain and provide you with energy and essential nutrients. If you can’t make time for three meals a day, try healthy snacks to prevent low blood sugar and anxiety throughout your day.
5. Negative Thinking
The words you say to yourself can trigger and often worsen anxiety. When you’re upset or frustrated, try to refocus your feelings to avoid making negative comments about yourself. Creating a positive relationship with yourself is a powerful way to combat anxiety and depression. Working with a therapist can help you with this process.
6. Financial Concerns
Financial concerns, such as saving money or being in debt, can trigger anxiety. An unexpected bill or money fears can also be triggers.
Managing these concerns may require professional assistance, such as from a financial advisor. Having a guide to walk you through these concerns may help you ease your anxiety and worries.
7. Social Events
It’s common to feel worried or anxious in a room full of people. Events requiring small talk or interacting with strangers can trigger anxiety symptoms, from increased heart rate to sweaty palms. You may be diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder when these issues are persistent and uncontrollable.
You might consider bringing along a companion when possible to ease your anxieties. And working with a professional can also help you develop coping mechanisms to make social events more manageable in the long term.
8. Public Events or Performances
Speaking in public, talking in front of your boss or performing in a competition may trigger anxiety. If your job requires you to speak in front of a group of people, your therapist can help you learn how to be more comfortable in these settings. Positive self-talk and reinforcement from friends can also help you feel more confident.
11. Personal Triggers
Personal triggers can often be challenging to identify, but a mental health specialist is trained to help you do exactly this. Even small things like a smell, place or song can remind you of a traumatic event in your life. Soon it can be challenging to go places or interact with people. Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently experience anxiety or panic from specific external triggers.
These triggers may be conscious, where you understand the source of your anxiety. Others are subconscious, where you experience severe anxiety symptoms without an apparent cause. A professional can help you find these triggers, learn to overcome them and care for yourself when they arise.
Symptoms of Anxiety
The symptoms of anxiety will vary depending on the type of disorder you have. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), PTSD, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic disorder.
General symptoms of an anxiety disorder include physical and mental symptoms as well as certain behaviors:
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
While anxiety is a mental illness, it can impact the body. When faced with a triggering event, individuals with anxiety may experience:
- Cold or sweaty hands
- Heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
- Muscle tension
- Shortness of breath
- Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
Mental Effects of Anxiety
Anxiety can bring about several uncontrollable, irrational fears and worries. The general mental and cognitive effects of anxiety include:
- Panic, fear and uneasiness
- Repeated thoughts or flashbacks of traumatic experiences
- Uncontrollable, excessive thoughts
- Sense of impending doom
- Inability to concentrate
Anxiety can also have an immense impact on our behavior. Behavioral symptoms of anxiety often include:
- Inability to stay still and calm
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulties speaking in public or being in social settings
- Ritualistic behaviors or repeating certain habits to try to calm down
Causes of Anxiety
A combination of genetic and environmental factors can influence a person’s risk of developing anxiety disorders:
- Hereditary: Anxiety disorders tend to run in families. You might inherit anxiety from one or both parents or have a genetic vulnerability.
- Chemical imbalance: Long-term stress can impact our brains’ chemical balances that controls our mood. Experiencing severe, unrelenting stress over a long period can cause an anxiety disorder.
- Environment: Experiencing a traumatic event can trigger anxiety, especially in those who have inherited a higher risk of this disorder.
Anxiety disorders occur most often in women. Researchers believe it may come from hormones. The hormone testosterone may also play a role since men have more of it, and it tends to ease anxiety.
You may also be at a higher risk of anxiety if you have or have a history of:
- Certain personality traits, such as inhibition or feeling uncomfortable with unfamiliar people or environments
- Stressful or traumatic events in early childhood or adulthood
- Family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions
- Physical conditions, such as thyroid problems or heart arrhythmias, which cause unusual heart rhythms
How to Identify Anxiety Triggers
So, what are your anxiety triggers? Finding the answer to this question may require deep diving. As soon as you identify and understand your triggers, you can work to overcome them. A health professional may also help you adapt coping mechanisms for anxiety so you can handle your triggers as they occur.
Try recalling situations where your anxiety was at its worst. This can help you determine your anxiety spectrum to keep track of events and conditions that trigger your anxiety. For instance, talking with a friend may present mild anxiety, speaking in a group setting may cause a lot of stress and talking in front of a crowd might be a significant trigger.
Identifying these triggers can help you determine underlying themes. The above situations are all different, though they are all social situations that could represent a type of social anxiety.
A few other tips to help you identify your triggers include:
- Keep a journal: Take note of situations where your anxiety is most noticeable and write down what you believe caused the trigger.
- Be honest with yourself: Anxiety can cause us to think negatively about ourselves, making it challenging to identify triggers due to these anxious reactions. Be patient with yourself and be willing to explore your past to recognize how it affects you today.
Being in a position where you feel judged or evaluated can trigger anxiety for many people. Identifying the trigger can help you prepare coping tools before facing anxiety-inducing situations.
Since anxiety impacts your thinking, it can be challenging to see its causes clearly. That’s why it can be beneficial to work with a mental health professional who can support you to see patterns or themes underlying your various triggers.
How to Manage Anxiety Triggers
Learning how to cope with anxiety can be easier once you have healthy coping mechanisms in place. Now that you understand common anxiety triggers and ways to identify your own, you can prepare for and reduce the impact of these situations.
Events outside of your control, such as receiving bad news or facing the stressors of a new life challenge, can cause anxiety. However, some triggers have a real, tangible impact that we can combat.
One of the most common anxiety triggers is public speaking or performance. Perhaps you had an experience where you “froze up” due to the anxiety caused by an audition or presentation.
Here are a few ways to manage anxiety triggers caused by circumstances such as the above:
1. Try Mindful Breathing
Several breathing exercises can help you overcome the physical sensations of anxiety. And when you remind yourself to stay mindful and in the present, your fears may seem less significant.
Since anxiety can cause us to breathe faster and make our triggers seem stronger, it can help to lengthen your exhale. Before taking a big, deep breath, exhale instead. Push the air out of your lungs and then spend more and more time exhaling each time. Try inhaling for four seconds, then exhale for six. Do this for two to five minutes and focus on your breath as you breathe in and out.
2. Reframe Triggers
Say you are about to enter a business meeting. Reframe the situation aloud to prepare yourself. Try affirmations such as, “I’m super excited for this presentation!” The physical cues for excitement and anxiety are often identical. They can cause a racing heart, feeling hot or flushed, sweaty palms and muscle tension.
Emotionally reframing your fear as excitement won’t change your circumstances, but it may shift your experience of what’s happening. So, try replacing anxiety and rumination with energy and enthusiasm to combat the trigger.
3. Seek Professional Treatment
A mental health professional, such as a counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist, can teach you how to identify anxiety triggers. You can also learn how to manage anxiety triggers when you participate in behavioral therapy sessions or take medicines that ease your symptoms.
In therapy, psychiatrists can help redirect your anxious thoughts and feelings to ease your worries. These sessions can help you “rewire” your brain or reframe negative thought patterns to help you see your fears in a different way. You might also learn new hobbies or coping mechanisms for anxiety that help you comfortably handle the physical symptoms of anxiety.
How to Know When to Seek Professional Help
If anxiety interferes with your ability to function and perform daily tasks, it’s essential to speak with a medical or mental health professional. Seeking professional treatment can help you manage anxiety triggers and prevent them from escalating. Anxiety is a complicated condition, but getting help can make addressing it easier.
If you are unsure whether you or a loved one is experiencing an anxiety disorder that warrants professional help, consider the following symptoms:
- Excessive, uncontrollable worries
- Intrusive thoughts and concerns
- Having panic attacks
- Feeling unable to control fears
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in eating habits
- Problems focusing or concentrating on tasks
- Difficulties carrying out daily activities and obligations
Anxiety disorders can escalate quickly and significantly impact our lives. That’s why seeking professional treatment is necessary, especially if your or a loved one feels that anxiety is causing considerable problems.
Book a Consultation at My TMS Therapy
Learning how to cope with anxiety can be challenging, but you never have to go at it alone. If you believe that you or a loved one has anxiety, seeking professional help can provide a diagnosis and treatment plan to help you find relief.
Find relief from anxiety and depression with My TMS Therapy. My TMS Therapy is a safe & FDA-approved treatment for depression, anxiety and more. It is effective and covered by most insurances. Thrive again with the help of our professional staff. Book an appointment today!