What are Anxiety Triggers?

Anxiety triggers can lead to anxiety symptoms, but are not the cause of anxiety on their own. Understanding how triggers work can help you identify your own.

Anxiety Part 3: What Can Trigger Anxiety?

Estimated watch time: 4 mins 20 secs


By participating in this video lesson, you can start to gain a deeper understanding of how triggers work and how they could be playing a role in your own anxiety. A trigger can be a situation, an object, or even an action. Understanding the different kinds of triggers lays the important groundwork to identify your own triggers. 

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Anxiety Part 3: Understanding Anxiety Triggers

In this lesson we’re going to discuss anxiety triggers.

What are anxiety triggers?

Anxiety triggers are an action, object, or situation that can cause symptoms of anxiety to appear. It is important to note that triggers are not the actual cause of anxiety disorders. They only bring on or trigger the symptoms to arise. We discussed in the previous lesson that anxiety disorders are caused by a combination of factors including environmental, genetic, medical, and the use of drugs or alcohol.

Triggers can bring on episodes of anxiety or make existing feelings of anxiety even worse. Feelings of anxiety can be triggered by a number of factors. For instance, everyday situations, or they can have intuitive causes, or they can appear to have no cause at all. Let’s talk about these in more detail.

Individuals who have an anxiety disorder may notice their symptoms escalating and not be able to identify why.  These feelings seemed to come out of nowhere as the person goes about their daily life.

Intuitive triggers are those experiences and situations where most people would expect to feel anxious. Such as high stress situations, having a serious illness, or being involved in an abusive relationship.

Everyday situations.  There are situations that affect individuals differently. Certain life patterns tend to increase anxiety for those who already have an anxiety disorder. These daily life patterns include drug and alcohol use, smoking, and caffeine intake. It is common for individuals to abuse drugs or alcohol or smoke in an attempt to cope with feelings of anxiety. In reality, the use of these chemicals is more likely to increase feelings of anxiety as well as lead to other, even more serious physical and emotional consequences.

Individuals who regularly drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages tend to do so for its effect as a stimulant to help themselves be more alert in the morning or throughout the day. For those with an anxiety disorder, however, caffeine will likely trigger or worsen their feelings of anxiety. Other factors of daily life that influence anxiety are medication, nutrition, and sleep. Certain prescribed or over-the-counter medications may contain compounds that trigger anxiety in some individuals. It is important to see your medical professional should you experience unpleasant side effects.

Most people know that neglecting proper nutrition and not getting enough sleep can prevent a person from functioning as well as they could. Skipping meals, not maintaining proper hydration, and consuming an unbalanced diet can also make a person more prone to increased symptoms of anxiety.

Social situations such as parties and other gatherings, as well as experiencing financial difficulties, can trigger a person with an anxiety disorder more intensely than would a person without an anxiety disorder who may only be mildly nervous about such things.

Negative thinking.  The way we think and what we say to ourselves while experiencing anxiety can influence how severely the anxiety is experienced.

Conflict itself tends to cause anxiety. If a person tends to deal poorly with conflict and has trouble resolving it in a healthy way, anxiety is likely to get worse.

In summary, we have discussed a variety of triggers that can bring on or exacerbate symptoms of anxiety. Some triggers are predictable, while at other times a person may be left wondering why they are experiencing feelings of anxiety at a given time.

In the next lesson we will discuss strategies to identify your own personal triggers.

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.