Understanding the Risk Factors for Developing Anxiety Disorders

Understanding Factors

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States, affecting more than 18 million adults each year. While anxiety is a normal emotion, when it becomes overwhelming and unmanageable it can lead to an anxiety disorder. Knowing the risk factors associated with the development of an anxiety disorder can help those at risk better prepare themselves and those around them.

Genetic Factors

One of the most important risk factors in the development of an anxiety disorder is genetics. Studies have shown that those with first-degree family members suffering from an anxiety disorder are much more likely to develop a condition themselves. The genes associated with anxiety tend to be passed down through attachment and parental styles, but the specific genetic markers associated with anxiety have yet to be determined.

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Personality Type

Those who are considered to have pre-existing behavioral or personality disorders prior to development of an anxiety disorder may have an increased risk of developing one. People who are categorically labeled as “perfectionists,” “sensitive,” or “worriers” have an increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder due to their predisposition to catastrophizing situations and their general sense of unease.

Environmental Factors

The physical environment of a person with an anxiety disorder may also play a role in the onset of their disorder. Those living in highly stressful or overly-stimulating environments tend to be more prone to developing an anxiety disorder. Examples of such environments can include traumatic events, parental strife, poverty, neglect or abuse.

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Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is also a major risk factor for developing an anxiety disorder. Abusing drugs or alcohol is known to decrease neurotransmitter levels in the brain, which can lead to various psychological disorders, including an anxiety disorder and depression. People who are recovering from substance abuse are at an increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder as they attempt to manage the physical and psychological challenges of recovery.

Understanding the Benefits of Early Diagnosis and Treatment

Early diagnosis and treatment are key components in reducing the severity of an anxiety disorder and mitigating its potential health effects. By educating yourself and those around you about the symptoms of anxiety disorder and its associated risk factors, you can help ensure that those at risk are able to seek appropriate help and prevent the disorder from becoming unmanageable.

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Talking to a mental health professional can help you or a loved one receive the help and treatment they need to begin the process of managing and—in some cases—recovering from an anxiety disorder. Therapy and antidepressants may also be recommended for those struggling with an anxiety disorder in order to reduce anxiety symptoms and help them to better manage their condition.


Understanding the Risk Factors for Developing Anxiety Disorders can significantly benefit those living with or at risk for the condition. Early Diagnosis and Treatment of anxiety disorders are essential for managing the mental and physical health of those affected. Genetics, personality type, environmental factors, and substance abuse are all potential Risk Factors for an anxiety disorder. Therapy and Antidepressants are often recommended to those struggling with an anxiety disorder.