anxiety triggers

How to Identify and Manage 9 Most Common Anxiety Triggers

anxiety triggers

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders in the U.S. It affects about 40 million people. What causes anxiety disorders are not clear, but it’s likely a combination of factors, including environmental and genetic reasons. 

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However, it’s clear that some emotions, experiences, or events may cause symptoms to begin or worsen. These factors are called triggers. Anxiety triggers usually cause repeated episodes of sudden feelings of fear or terror.

The feelings can interfere with daily activities and make a person’s life dreadful. Therefore, when having an anxiety episode, you may want to avoid situations or places you believe led to the initial anxiety. Anxiety triggers vary from person to person, but many are common among individuals with these disorders.

Nevertheless, it’s important to understand what triggers your anxiety and the steps you can take to manage your condition in certain situations.

Here, we look at 9 different anxiety triggers and provide information on anxiety management techniques.

1. Health Issues

Health issues can cause significant anxiety attacks. Also, an upsetting or difficult health diagnosis, such as a chronic illness or cancer, may trigger anxiety. This type of trigger is very strong, given the immediate and personal feelings it produces. An underlying medical condition extensively increases the chances of having bouts of anxiety.

Here are some clues that show your anxiety is due to a particular health problem:

  • You’ve never had an anxiety disorder before
  • There’s no history of anxiety or mood disorders in your family
  • You feel disoriented
  • You have a newly diagnosed or long-term medical condition
  • You’ve changed your medications
  • You’ve started having memory problems lately

Possible Health Problems Behind Anxiety

To help you understand potential medical issues that may be triggering your anxiety, we’ll use the mnemonics ‘THINC MED’. Let’s look at what they stand for:

T- Tumors

Brain tumors are a major anxiety trigger. People with brain tumors usually feel stressed and depressed most of the time. Their anxiety can develop suddenly or slowly and gradually. Although anxiety can be a sudden symptom of brain tumors, they often occur due to excessive adrenaline production. The adrenaline triggers anxiety and also causes severe headaches.

Anxiety triggers

What Is ‘THINC MED’?

H- Hormones

A person with thyroid hormone issues is likely going to have repeated anxiety episodes. This usually occurs due to hyperactivity, which is known as hyperthyroidism. It’s believed that the adrenal and parathyroid glands also make anxiety disorders worse.

In addition to anxiety, hyperthyroidism may also cause weight loss, tremors, heat intolerance, sleep issues, and more. Estrogen, a hormone commonly associated with the female body, can also be an anxiety trigger. This occurs due to fluctuations during a woman’s menstrual cycle and during menopause.

I – Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, Lyme disease, Influenza, Strep infection, Hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS can trigger anxiety and other psychological problems like depression. These infections can also cause difficulty breathing, progressive weakness, and altered sensation.


Poor nutrition, malabsorption, and vitamin deficiency or overload may result in heightened anxiety attacks. For instance, anxiety may be the first symptom of B12 deficiency. Gut absorption disorders and gastric bypass surgery increase this risk.

C- Central Nervous System

Anxiety can be related to progressive and chronic neurological conditions, such as Guillain-Barre, Myasthenia Gravis, and Alzheimer’s. It can also be triggered by head trauma, especially those that involve right hemisphere brain injuries.

M – Miscellaneous

Chronic diseases and chronic pain conditions can trigger anxiety as the illness progresses and affects function. Rare diseases such as Wilson’s disease and porphyria can also cause anxiety and other psychological problems. Anxiety can also be associated with rheumatologic disorders, food allergies, and inflammatory conditions.

E- Electrolyte Abnormalities

The electrolytes in your body can be disturbed by some medical therapies, triggering anxiety. What’s more, anxiety can develop or worsen due to prolonged exposure to such medical therapies and environmental toxins, such as organophosphate insecticides.

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D- Drugs

Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs, homeopathic remedies, allopathic drugs, and herbal supplements can cause heightened anxiety attacks. Food additives, especially MSG, can also elicit anxiety.

Excessive caffeine can make children and adults anxious, so you may want to avoid energy drinks or boosters that stimulate and promote anxiety. In some cases, people may experience anxiety due to the misuse of or withdrawal from alcohol and controlled substances.

Managing Anxiety Triggered by Health Problems

  • Treat the Underlying Medical Condition

Instead of focusing on the anxiety disorder itself, consider treating its root cause. If you have a health condition that triggers your anxiety, it would be best if you have the issue treated appropriately. Therefore, if you ignore your health issue, your overall health will be greatly affected, and you’ll be having those constant feelings of worry or fear.

  • Incorporate Progressive Exercises into Your Regimen

Some physical activities can help interrupt your train of thought and give you a sense of control. Here are some of the exercises that can help you feel good and maintain your health:

  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga
  • Hiking
  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Running

Progressive exercises help relax your muscles, keep your body active, and use up extra adrenaline.

  • Sign Up for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

If you’re being treated for the underlying condition causing anxiety attacks, but still you’re not having any positive outcome when it comes to your anxiety, you should consider cognitive behavioral therapy. This will help you deal with your anxiety and medical condition in a better way.

  • Medications

If cognitive-behavioral therapy is not working, your health care provider may prescribe medications to improve your mental health. It’s important to ensure you only take anxiety medications that are prescribed by your doctor. Any other thing may cause more harm than good.

2. Caffeine

Your morning cup of coffee might be triggering or worsening your anxiety. Social anxiety disorder and panic disorder are especially sensitive to the anxiety-induced effects of caffeine. Caffeine tends to increase the levels of epinephrine hormone in the body. This hormone plays a primary role in producing a fight-or-flight response.

Anxiety triggers

Common Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal

It also blocks the Adenosine chemical, which increases alertness and makes you feel tired. What’s more, caffeine results in an increase in adrenaline, which results in excessive energy in your body.

If you drink excessive amounts of caffeinated beverages, your chances of feeling anxious and on edge will significantly increase with time. The higher the caffeine levels in your body, the more you’ll be susceptible to its anxiety-inducing effects. Some of the symptoms induced by caffeine can also mimic anxiety, including:

  • Fast or uneven heartbeat
  • Nervousness
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Restlessness
  • Gastrointestinal issues

You may also experience withdrawal symptoms if you try to stop the consumption of caffeine abruptly. Caffeine withdrawal may cause:

  • Tremors
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Jitters and shakes
  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety

So, how much caffeine is enough to trigger episodes of anxiety? According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there’s typically no harm in consuming 4 cups of coffee a day. Any consumption that is in excess of that, however, may trigger anxiety or depression.

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Overcoming Caffeine-Induced Anxiety

Here are some tips to help cut back your caffeine and anxiety associated with it:

  • Gradually reduce caffeine consumption

Whether it is soda, coffee, or energy drinks, you don’t want to stop drinking it abruptly. Cutting back on your caffeine over a period of days will help you avoid withdrawal symptoms, such as fatigue, depression, headache, drowsiness, and more.

  • Substitute non-caffeinated options

While you’re gradually reducing your daily consumption of tea, coffee, energy drinks, and soda, you may also consider finding caffeine substitutes whenever possible. Decaffeinated substitutes may include cold water, juice, or smoothies.

  • Set Goals

Set goals to limit yourself on how much caffeine you consume. As mentioned above, 4 cups are the maximum you should take. If you’ve been consuming more than that, consider reducing the amount or setting a specific time when you can drink your caffeinated beverage.

3. Taking Tests or Exams

It is common for people to feel anxious, distressed, and agitated before sitting a test. This is called test anxiety and is basically a type of performance anxiety.

There are several factors that can trigger test anxiety, including a lack of study or proper preparation, intense pressure to perform, or fear of failure. Because tests and exams can be too much to handle sometimes, it may manifest in the form of emotional instability, physical stress, lack of concentration, and more.

How Test Anxiety Affects You?

Test anxiety tends to have psychological effects like mouth dryness, muscle tension, increased heartbeat, and more. During an episode of test anxiety, an individual may not be able to think straight, act, or make appropriate decisions. You may have heightened feelings of anxiety if there’s a lot of pressure coming from your family when it comes to academic performance. Such families should always try to avoid being hard on their kids.

Learning and excelling in school is important, but not as important as having a mentally stable child.

Anxiety triggers

Test Anxiety in Students

Overcoming Test Anxiety

The best way to avoid anxiety triggers caused by tests is to improve your attitude towards all sorts of exams. Your grades are not the end of the world. They do not define you as a person, predict your future, or determine your worth. Here’s how you can avoid test anxiety triggers:

  • Always remember a test does not determine your success
  • Ignore irrational thoughts
  • Have a moderate meal before taking a test
  • Avoid being late for the test. Arrive early to ensure you get enough time to compose yourself
  • Try to distract yourself if you’re feeling anxious while waiting for the test
  • Stay away from friends or classmates who generate anxiety
  • Relax and avoid stressful situation and emotions
  • Prepare adequately for the test
  • Try to get enough sleep before the test day
  • After the test, reward yourself no matter how you think you performed

You can also work with a professional to find coping mechanisms that make tests more manageable.

4. Socializing

If a room full of strangers gives you all the nervous feelings, you’re not alone. Some people experience anxiety before social events or gatherings, especially when meeting people for the first time. It’s normal for people to feel anxious when meeting strangers for the first time. This affects almost everyone, but for some people, the feeling can be quite intense.

When it is extreme, anxiety triggered by socializing can make it difficult for you to interact with other people, achieve your dreams, or engage in activities that you would otherwise enjoy. You may feel excessively self-conscious and socially withdrawn. This may be diagnosed as social anxiety disorder, and you need to find coping mechanisms.

Social situations that can trigger feelings of anxiety include:

  • Meeting people you don’t know
  • Giving a speech or performance
  • Performing in a competition
  • Making small talk
  • Attending an interview
  • Talking in front of your boss
  • Going to an unfamiliar place
  • Doing something that’s out of your comfort zone
  • Reading aloud

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How to Overcome Social Anxiety Disorder

  • Control Your Breathing

Because of how you feel uncomfortable when socializing with people you don’t know or standing before a crowd, your breathing may be affected. Faster breathing or shortness of breath will make you even more anxious. It’s, therefore, important to work on your breathing when a social situation triggers your anxiety.

To control your breath when engaging with other people, here’s what you can do:

  • Relax yourself
  • Sit down and make sure your back is all straight
  • Place your hands on your chest and belly
  • Breathe in and out
  • Repeat the breathing exercises until you feel calmer

These will help reduce anxiety attacks.

  • Get an ESA (Emotional Support Animal)

Getting an emotional support animal can help reduce anxiety in social settings. Pets are known to make people calm and can help you feel confident, which can help you socialize with people without any episodes of anxiety.

In addition to making you feel calm, your ESA will help you stay content when you’re around people.

Some of the ESAs you can consider include cats, dogs, rabbits, and miniature horses.

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  • Keep a Journal

The best way to address your social anxiety triggers is to keep track of your feelings on paper. Keeping a journal of what you feel and go through is a great way to analyze how social situations make you feel anxious. Note all the negative thoughts and feelings and the things that make socializing hard for you.

It will become easy to identify triggers and avoid them once you start keeping a journal. In addition, you may want to note down any effective coping strategies that have helped you in past situations so you can refer back to them in the future.

  • Pay Attention to the Best

It’s easy to trigger your social anxiety when you assume the worst instead of paying attention to the brighter side of the picture. Your condition will greatly improve if you start focusing on the positives and ignoring negative thoughts.

Other Ways to Manage Social Anxiety

  • Consider psychotherapy
  • Try to improve your own self
  • Fight negative thoughts
  • Keep a rational attitude
  • Practice deep breathing exercises
  • Try to become more social
  • Be patient
  • Create goals
  • Don’t focus on yourself when socializing
  • Exercise regularly and get adequate sleep

For some people, dealing with social anxiety involves confronting the situation head-on. For instance, you can choose to join a public speaking group or an anxiety support group to help you face your anxiety triggers.

5. Bullying

Whether at school or the workplace, bullying always makes victims feel helpless, trapped, and embarrassed. People who experience bullying may become nervous and live with fear, especially in places where bullying happens. The fear of bullying can make life difficult and distract victims from their studies or work.

Bullying victims are susceptible to mental pressure and stress all the time. Some kids may skip school altogether, and employees may not perform their work as expected. Regardless of the type of bullying and where it occurs, victims will typically not have peace of heart.

When the bullying takes place over an extended period of time, the victim may develop anxiety disorders, eating disorders, depression, and other mental health problems.

Anxiety triggers

Responses Triggered by Bullying

Responses Triggered by Bullying

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Repeated bullying and abuse may lead to PTSD. People may have nightmares and flashbacks resulting from bullying. If your child puts up with bullying for a long time, they’re more likely to develop PTSD than other kids.

  • Panic Attacks

Children or teens who are bullied at school usually experience repeated episodes of panic attacks. Being scared or hit by a bully may result in chest pain, irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath, and more. If your child tells you that they’ve experienced panic attacks due to bullying, do not turn a deaf ear.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Your child might develop GAD if he/she is plagued with constant worries and fears. The bullying experiences leave them worrying that something bad will happen. As a result, the stress and constant worry impact all aspects of their lives and take the form of a generalized anxiety disorder.

Ways to Overcome Anxiety Triggered by Bullying

  • File a Complaint

If you think someone is bullying you, you need to take the right steps to stop it and prevent others from being victimized. Gather courage and file a complaint before your condition gets worse.

  • Don’t Give the Bullies a Chance to Overpower You

If bullies are always on your case, do not allow them to overpower you. Equip yourself with some coping mechanisms that will help you overcome bullying, gossiping, and teasing. We understand that bullies are usually stronger than their targets, but don’t let the situation overpower your thoughts and behavior.

  • Ignore the Bully

Bullies often like to elicit reactions from their victims. Do not react or fight back when a bully approaches you. Just walk away and let them know that you don’t care.

  • Act Courageous

Your body language speaks volumes about how you feel. Hold your head high and let the bully know that you’re not vulnerable and cannot be harmed. Use your body language to defend yourself.

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  • Try to Have a Conversation with the Bully

Speaking to the bully about their harmful behavior can make a big difference. Let them know that their behavior is causing harm and try to work out the issue.

6. Becoming a Parent

Becoming a parent is one of the most exciting life events, but it can also trigger feelings of intense anxiety and stress. Parents-to-be may have concerns about the health of the baby, the birth itself, and how they will cope in their new role.

Factors that Trigger Pregnancy Anxiety

  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Neck, shoulder, and back pain
  • Irritability
  • Muscle twitching
  • Grinding teeth
  • Excessive sense of anxiousness
  • Absentmindedness or forgetfulness

Why You Might Be Susceptible to Repeated Episodes of Anxiety During Your Pregnancy?

Anxiety is a common problem affecting pregnant women. It’s more prevalent than depression and tends to create mixed feelings of love, joy, delight, anger, frustration, surprise, and stress. Here are some factors that increase the risk of experiencing anxiety during pregnancy:

  • Marital problems
  • History of depression
  • History of anxiety
  • High-risk pregnancy
  • Desire to be the perfect parent
  • Financial problems
  • Use of controlled substances
  • History of miscarriages

Managing Pregnancy Anxiety

  • Open Up

Pregnancy and parenthood can be hard on a woman. It’s common to feel anxious and try to hide one’s feelings. It’s great to talk about your feelings with someone you trust.

  • Keep a Journal

If you don’t feel comfortable talking about your emotions and feelings, write it down. Keeping a journal will give you a channel to release all the emotions without feeling like someone is judging you. It will also help you feel light and calm.

  • Get Enough Sleep

Lack of enough sleep can trigger anxiety. If you want to avoid episodes of anxiety as you prepare to become a parent, ensure you sleep for at least 7 to 8 hours a day.

  • Eat a Balanced Diet

You may have cravings for certain foods when you’re pregnant. Eat foods that make you feel happy and energized. If your cravings are satisfied, you will feel happy and satisfied. Also, incorporate foods rich in magnesium, such as legumes, leafy greens, seeds, nuts, and whole grains, to help you feel calmer.

  • Stay Active

Taking rest when pregnant is good for you and your baby, but staying active through exercise is equally important. Most exercises are safe during pregnancy, but you should be careful not to overdo them. Talk to your doctor about working out while you’re pregnant.

Anxiety triggers

Pregnancy Anxiety Reported Among Women

Tips for Managing Pregnancy Anxiety

  • Relax yourself
  • Have a support system
  • Find joy in your journey
  • Use books, articles, and videos to increase your knowledge
  • Seek help from your doctors

Why Seeking Help from Health Care Providers is Important?

Many pregnant women think it’s okay to drown in negative emotions and feelings because hormonal changes cause them. But this should not be the case, especially if you have a history of mental health issues.

If you’re experiencing severe anxiety episodes and you feel you’re losing it, consider getting professional help before it’s too late. It’s easy to think that everything will go back to normal once you’ve delivered your baby and your hormones are balanced. Still, if the condition is left untreated, you’re more likely to develop postpartum depression.

Your anxiety and depression will considerably decrease when you work with a medical professional to manage your condition. And remember, there are possibilities that prolonged anxiety may cause harm to your unborn baby. If you don’t take control of your anxiety, there’ll be an increased risk of low birth weight or preterm birth, in addition to emotional issues that will affect the baby.

If you want to ensure you have a healthy baby, take your anxiety seriously, and let your doctor help you with the right coping mechanisms.

7. Dehydration

Most people know that you need plenty of water to stay healthy and active. But did you know that failure to drink enough water can trigger your anxiety? Yes, it’s possible.

When you’re dehydrated, you may feel imbalanced and more prone to anxiety. You may feel tense, angry, and confused. This is one of the reasons why health experts recommend at least 8 glasses of water a day so you can stay focused.

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How Dehydration Causes Anxiety?

While water is easily accessible, most people still fail to take enough of it. Dehydration can trigger anxiety and affect your body in several ways. How does dehydration cause anxiety?

  • Dehydration causes poor blood flow, which slows the transportation of hormones
  • Your brain becomes slow
  • You experience muscle tension
  • Your body does not function properly

Simply put, dehydration affects many parts of your body, which will ultimately trigger anxiety.

Ways to Manage Anxiety Symptoms Triggered by Dehydration

If you experience repeated episodes of anxiety, make a habit of taking enough water every day. Staying hydrated will help you feel relaxed and keep away the anxious feelings. What’s more, your body will be able to handle stressful situations when it’s properly hydrated.

  • Drink as Much as Your Gender Demands

When it comes to proper hydration, you want to drink based on your gender. As a general rule of thumb, men should take 15.5 cups while women should take 11.5 cups. Children can drink between 5 and 8 cups of water.

  • Keep a Log

With all the benefits that come with adequate hydration, it’s important to keep an evidence log. This will help you keep track of your water intake and figure out how much more you have to drink to reach your daily target.

  • Make Water Accessible

If your child is experiencing episodes of anxiety due to dehydration, you understand just how hard it can be to ensure they drink enough water. To control the situation, make water accessible at all times.

Take water bottles with you to every place you go and pack an extra bottle with your kid’s lunch. Ensuring your kid has easy access to water will increase the likelihood that your kid will stay hydrated.

  • Make Water Attractive

Adding flavors and colors to your water in the form of lemons, watermelons, or berries will make water attractive and flavorful, prompting you and your kid to drink more of it.

  • Make it Fun

If it’s about your child, buy bottles and cups with his/her favorite character. You can also use unique straws to make drinking water an enjoyable thing.

Anxiety triggers

Tips to Drink More Water

8. Financial Constraints

Money can trigger anxiety for many people. The chances of experiencing increased anxiousness or getting into depression are higher for people who are experiencing financial problems.

Worries of living with debt, saving money, having an unstable income, losing a job, getting unexpected bills, or feeling the pressure to keep up with others around you can all trigger feelings of anxiety.

Financial constraints can lead to a number of health problems, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Insomnia and other sleep disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Social withdrawal
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Headaches

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Managing Anxiety Triggered by Financial Problems

We understand that it’s not easy to manage anxiety associated with financial concerns. But nothing is impossible if you’re committed to improving your condition. Seeking help from a medical professional is one of the best things you can do when it comes to keeping your anxiety under control.

Furthermore, you can also rely on a financial advisor to help you improve your situation. Once you consult with a doctor or financial advisor, you’ll be able to focus on the brighter side of the picture and come out of the dump you’ve been trapped in.

To improve your financial situation and mental health, you can also:

  • Talk to a supportive family member or friend.
  • Come up with a plan and stick with it
  • Control your stress levels
  • Analyze your financial status
  • Create a budget plan for every month
Anxiety triggers

Financial Constraints

9. Personal Conflicts

Relationship problems, disagreements, or arguments can all trigger or worsen anxiety. Whether it’s a conflict with your spouse, friend, family member, or parent, you may feel stressed and experience episodes of anxiety due to anger, frustrations, or fear. If you have relationship issues that may trigger anxiety, you need to learn conflict resolution strategies.

Coping With Personal Conflict Anxiety

  • Respond instead of reacting
  • Address the conflict
  • Listen to other people’s arguments and respect their line of thinking
  • Identify your mistakes and problems
  • Don’t be swayed by people’s opinions and try to be yourself
  • Understand the benefits of speaking up
  • Stay calm and don’t be stubborn

Furthermore, it’s also important to talk with a therapist to learn how to manage anxiety triggered by personal conflicts.

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Bottom Line

Occasional anxiety is normal, but chronic feelings of fear, worry, or dread are not. Anxiety is a natural emotion triggered by different stimuli like the ones we just described. Overstimulation may result in the development of anxiety disorder, making it important to seek treatment and find ways to manage your feelings.

Take proper care and adopt a healthy lifestyle that eases your symptoms and allows you to live a normal day-to-day life.

We’ve shared amazing anxiety management tips in this post. Identify what applies to your case and incorporate it into your daily regimen. You’ll be shocked by the outcome!

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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.