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Risk Factors and Causes


Dr. Patel
Research suggests that there are many biopsychosocial factors that contribute to anxiety disorders. Mr. Willis, can you tell us about some of these risk factors for anxiety?

Mr. Willis
Definitely, Dr. Patel. Some specific physical factors that are associated with anxiety disorders include:

  • Genetics or family history of anxiety or other mental disorders
  • Being female
  • Some thyroid conditions
  • Serious illness
  • Respiratory disorders, such as asthma
  • Other medical conditions, and
  • Certain medications

Cognitive factors that can increase the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder include:

  • Excessive worry
  • A tendency toward anxious, alarming, and negative thoughts, and
  • A belief that feelings of anxiety are harmful or intolerable

Emotions that can contribute to anxiety include:

  • A tendency toward negative feelings or mood, and
  • A fear of rejection or negative perception

Certain patterns of behavior can be risk factors for anxiety disorders as well. These include:

  • The use of products containing nicotine, such as cigarettes or smokeless tobacco
  • A tendency to avoid certain situations, places, people, emotions, or thoughts
  • Over-seeking reassurance, and
  • A tendency toward social isolation or shyness

Environmental risk factors for anxiety include:

  • Unpredictable, chaotic, or abusive relationships
  • Having few economic resources
  • Being divorced or widowed
  • Exposure to stressful life events, such as the death or illness of a relative or a change in job or location
  • Childhood experiences of abuse or maltreatment, and
  • Having overprotective parents during childhood