Pinning down the specific cause of anxiety is tricky. For each person, there exists a unique array of circumstances, risk factors, and life experiences, which can all contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder. Your anxiety profile may include lifestyle and psychological factors, as well as biological, medical, and genetic components.

Here is a breakdown of some of the most common causes of anxiety:

Your biology can make you vulnerable to anxiety disorders.
One of the most significant "causes" of anxiety is genetics. If you have a relative who has an anxiety disorder, you're more likely to develop an anxiety or panic disorder.

Imbalances in certain brain activity and in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters can trigger anxiety responses when you are not actually in danger. These neurotransmitters - including serotonin, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) - are often added as components of anti-anxiety medication.

Your thoughts, behaviours, and life experiences can contribute to anxiety disorders.
The way you think about your life and react to things and people around you can make you more vulnerable to anxiety. These may be behaviours or thought patterns that you learned or inherited from your parents or developed through experience or out of habit.

Stressful life experiences or major life changes and transitions also have the potential to trigger anxiety.

One thought pattern that often contributes to anxiety is catastrophization. This is what many people with anxiety do when they overestimate dangers and risks. Thinking that something is more dangerous than it really is can lead to avoidance, and this cycle only perpetuates the anxiety around the perceived "threat" or fear.

Another response common among people with anxiety disorders is associating a fear or worry with a "cue" - a place, a sensation, a song, or anything that links an experienced fear or trauma and an anxious reaction. An example would be an adult who has panic attacks when in classrooms because of a negative childhood experience in school, i.e., wetting themselves in class, having extreme test anxiety, losing a spelling bee. In general, childhood experiences can contribute to many adult anxieties, since we learned our ways of reacting and interpreting life events when we were young.

Your health and medical history can raise your risk of anxiety disorders.
Anxiety and panic symptoms may be heightened by underlying medical or mental health conditions, including heart, lung, and brain conditions, and depression. Women going through the hormonal changes of perimenopause and menopause may experience a surge in anxiety symptoms.

Your use of medications or other substances can cause anxiety symptoms.
Whether due to the drug's actions on the nervous system, side effects, or withdrawal symptoms, a number of drugs and substances can cause or worsen anxiety symptoms. The list of anxiety-causing substances includes caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and ADHD medications, diet pills, cold remedies and decongestants, as well as thyroid medications and bronchodilators used by people with asthma or other breathing disorders.

Another aspect linked to genetics is socialization. In other words, people might develop a vulnerability to experiencing anxiety through the process of modelling - that is, if parents teach their children that anxiety is dangerous, that it should be feared, and that avoidance or other maladaptive behaviours are to be relied upon to manage anxiety.