We do not know the exact cause of anxiety disorders. Scientists and researchers are always studying the possible causes. What we do know, however, is that certain biological, physiological, and environmental factors to contribute to the development of anxiety. We know that the illness usually runs in families. This lets us know that genes and family atmosphere can play a role in the development of the condition. Researchers believe that brain chemistry also affects the development of anxiety. Neurotransmitters in the brains of people with the condition act differently than the brains of other people. Further, environmental factors like stress and trauma also play a role in the development of anxiety. Thus, a combination of causes, like genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental factors may contribute to this illness.
Some studies link genes to anxiety disorder. Children may be at higher risk of developing the disorder, if close relatives suffer from it. While anxiety may run in families, this is not to say that someone inherits an actual “anxiety” gene. It simply means that certain genes promote the chances of having anxiety disorder. Even if you inherit this likelihood, but if you do not have combination of other stresses in your life, you may not experience anxiety as a disorder. Further, the family environment is a critical factor. If a child is exposed to parents who are in constant fear and dread every day, he or she can be affected in a negative way.
Anxiety disorder has been linked to abnormal amounts of certain neurotransmitters—serotonin and dopamine—in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that help transport messages between nerve cells. Dopamine and serotonin are primary neurotransmitters that influence thought and feeling. When they are out of balance, messages are not processed in the brain adequately. This changes the way the brain reacts in certain situations and may lead to anxiety. According to research, some physical symptoms of anxiety, like exaggerated fear and panic, may be the result of the imbalance between the two hemispheres of the brain. Further tests with positron emission tomography (PET) scans are being done to study this further. In many situations, prescription drugs can alleviate the chemical imbalance in the brain that causes anxiety.
Various environmental factors may lead to anxiety disorder. These include traumatic and stressful events like death of a family member, abuse, divorce, career change, pregnancy, and more. Anxiety may escalate during periods of stress. The use of addictive substances, like drugs, nicotine, and caffeine, may also worsen it. The prolonged use of cocaine, for instance, is associated to the feeling of panic. Even when a person stops a regular cocaine habit, he or she may feel this panic for years that follow. Withdrawal from these substances can also worsen it. Experts believe that the fears that a child may experience early in life might escalate over time and develop into an anxiety disorder. Holding back emotions like anger may result in anxiety later in life.