How to Identify Your Anxiety Triggers

For many people with anxiety, their triggers are hidden and must be discovered. A journal can help you look at different situations and how they make you feel.

Anxiety Part 4: What Triggers Your Anxiety?

Estimated watch time: 4 mins


This video guide provides you with questions to ask yourself as you begin your journey to uncover your anxiety triggers. A journal can help you record everything that’s happening internally and externally at a time when you feel anxious. Identifying triggers can be troubling, as you may feel or experience things you don’t like or that you find unpleasant. Learning more about your triggers can help you become more mindful and rooted in the present.

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Anxiety Part 4: Identifying Your Anxiety Triggers

In this lesson we’re going to talk about identifying your anxiety triggers. 

At this point, you might be thinking, I already know what makes me anxious. Why do I need to identify my triggers?

The truth is that while someone with an anxiety disorder does know many of their anxiety triggers, there are some that may remain hidden. Knowing and identifying your anxiety triggers can help calm you down, help you to cope better with them, and also give you more options of how to respond to them.

Sometimes identifying triggers can be like trying to solve a puzzle, as they are not immediately obvious to us.  When you begin to investigate your triggers, two things are very important. The first one is be honest with yourself. Sometimes we don’t like what we see when we look inside to try to figure out what is upsetting to us. Also, don’t judge your anxiety. Don’t think badly of yourself because of it. Don’t judge it as a defect. It isn’t. Instead of judging your anxiety, notice and observe it. Notice what it feels like. Notice the thoughts that you’re thinking. Notice the emotions that come up. Are you experiencing any physical symptoms? If so, what are they? A good tool to use when you begin investigating what your triggers may be is to start a journal, which is available in your portal.

When you experience an anxiety episode, record what you noticed about that anxiety episode afterwards. What preceded it, what was happening before you felt the anxiety?

What were you doing? Were you out? Were you at home? What were you feeling? Were you feeling nervous? Were you feeling excited? What were you thinking? Who were you with? Were you alone? Think about any smells or any music or sounds that you experienced as well.

Another way to explore your triggers is to identify any major life stressors that you’re going through at a particular time or that you’ve been through in the past. Reflect on past experiences. Recognize your family influences. Some people are reluctant to admit that their family has influenced them, especially if they had negative circumstances growing up. Identify any negative thoughts that you have that you may take for granted. Other ways to assist you in identifying your anxiety triggers are to talk to somebody you trust. Ask the person if they’ve noticed that you’ve seemed more anxious after certain experiences or events. You can also work with a therapist. A therapist will listen to your feelings in a non-judgemental environment and provide feedback, helping you identify things that you may not have identified on your own.

Some individuals may feel that they have no anxiety triggers. They acknowledge that they experience anxiety but are unable to identify anything that prompted. The truth is that anxiety symptoms may be so glaring and so unpleasant that the person does not notice what triggered them. Thoughts come and go so rapidly that the person may not notice a triggering thought, but only the feelings that it triggered. While identifying personal anxiety triggers may take time, it is an important step in helping to reduce feelings of anxiety and assist us in developing ways to cope with them.

In our next lesson we will discuss ways to cope with your anxiety triggers. 

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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.