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What are the Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

A woman struggling with generalized anxiety disorder.
Generalized anxiety disorder is caused by a range of genetic and environmental factors.

“Don’t be such a worrywart.” Have you ever had a friend or loved one say this to you, exasperated by your endless worrying? While this infamous phrase has stood the test of time since the 1920s, it oversimplifies what someone with generalized anxiety disorder is going through.

It’s not that you’re worried about something serious and relevant; it’s that you’re continually worrying over everyday things, like your car’s condition or your finances, without there being a good reason for concern. Logically, you know you don’t have to worry like this. So why can’t you stop?

5 Factors that Can Lead to Generalized Anxiety Disorder

This heightened and burdensome sense of worry can disrupt your day-to-day, leaving you in a constant and exhausting state of panic. Why are you like this? Were you born like this or did generalized anxiety disorder just develop out of the blue?

Based on what experts know about this condition, there are at least five factors that can cause generalized anxiety disorder:

1. Genetics. Do you have a family history of generalized anxiety disorder or other anxiety conditions? According to recent research, generalized anxiety disorder has a heritability of approximately 30 percent. This means that there is a moderate likelihood that your anxiety is a result of your genetic make-up. However, genetics don’t tell the whole story. Similar to addiction, generalized anxiety disorder is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.

2. Prolonged Exposure to Stress. One environmental cause that can trigger generalized anxiety disorder is ongoing stress. These prolonged stressors could by anything from unsustainable work deadlines to a difficult physical illness that puts your body under tremendous strain. Being in a trauma-filled environment for extended periods of time as an active military member or first responder can also lead to anxiety symptoms alongside post-traumatic stress disorder.

3. Caffeine Use. Caffeine is a stimulant that triggers your “fight or flight” response. If you already have a genetic predisposition to anxiety, caffeine use can worsen your symptoms, trigger anxiety attacks and lead to an ongoing struggle with generalized anxiety disorder.

4. Childhood Trauma. If you are a victim of childhood abuse, the trauma you went through could be a significant reason why you struggle with generalized anxiety disorder. With ongoing abuse, the limbic system (made up of the amygdala, hippocampus and other parts of the brain), continues to overreact even after the abuse is done. This leads to more gray matter in the brain and changes in the amygdala and hippocampus – two parts of the brain that play roles in the transmission, interpretation and coding of fear and emotions. This ultimately triggers generalized anxiety disorder.

5. Alcohol Abuse. Alcohol abuse acts similar to caffeine in that it can worsen anxiety symptoms if you’re already prone to anxiety. Oftentimes, people with mild to moderate anxiety try to “take the edge off” by drinking. However, using alcohol as a continuous coping mechanism can lead to generalized anxiety disorder and require dual diagnosis treatment to treat both anxiety and alcohol abuse.

Heal and Manage Your Generalized Anxiety Disorder at The Raleigh House

Generalized anxiety disorder can leave you feeling broken and unable to make it through a normal day. This type of disorder isn’t something you can tough out on your own, and you don’t need to. At The Raleigh House, we have over 10 years of experience helping people just like you work through their anxiety and develop healthy ways to cope.

As a trusted leader in behavioral health and dual diagnosis disorders, we offer a gold-standard continuum of care that includes residential treatment and outpatient treatment for your anxiety disorder. With an east to west approach that includes both evidence-based treatments and experiential therapies, you will learn how to manage your symptoms and return to a life that isn’t plagued by anxiety.

Contact us today to learn more about our treatment approach to generalized anxiety disorder.

Call Now: 720-891-4657

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