Everyone gets anxious, restless, and frazzled — but if you’re constantly experiencing anxiety and don’t really know why, you could have an anxiety disorder.
Doctors make a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder when patients have anxiety symptoms (such as constant worry, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, and frequent headaches) for more than six months, without good reason. But what causes the anxiety-ridden to fret over day-to-day events — situations that other folks simply brush off? Researchers don’t completely understand all the causes, but they do know that anxiety is linked to a number of surprising triggers, from weight-loss supplements to thyroid problems.
2 / 8 Heart Problems
If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you’re familiar with the way your hands get clammy, you can’t catch your breath — and your heart feels like it’s going to pound right out of your chest. But problems with your heart can also be the cause of anxiety. In fact, after a heart attack or heart surgery, about one-third of people experience anxiety symptoms such as heart palpitations and shortness of breath. These symptoms often last up to one year or more, and they’re more common in women.
3 / 8 Alcohol and Drugs
Research shows that people with anxiety disorders, particularly social anxiety disorder, are up to three times more likely also to have problems with drugs and alcohol. But that’s not at all: Abuse of alcohol or drugs can also lead to an anxiety disorder or an anxiety attack. People with social anxiety who abuse alcohol have been shown to be more likely to have severe symptoms of anxiety — as well as other emotional problems and health conditions. No matter which problem comes first, the combination of drugs, alcohol, and anxiety can become a vicious cycle.
5 / 8 Medications
Certain medications have some ugly side effects — they can cause anxiety symptoms or even trigger an anxiety attack. Prescription medications to watch out for include thyroid drugs and asthma drugs, while over-the counter decongestants and combination cold remedies could put you at risk. And if you suddenly stop taking medication used to treat anxiety (benzodiazepines), this may cause anxiety symptoms, too.
4 / 8 Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant — and that can be bad news for someone with anxiety. In fact, caffeine’s jittery effects on your body are similar to those of a frightening event. That’s because caffeine stimulates your “fight or flight” response, and studies show that this can make anxiety worse and can even trigger an anxiety attack. And just like the symptoms of anxiety, consuming one too many cups of Joe may leave you feeling nervous, moody, and can keep you up all night.