Causes of Anxiety Disorders


Cause details for Anxiety Disorders: One or more fearful experiences can prime a person to respond excessively to situations where most people would experience no fear such as in the supermarket or only moderate nervousnesss such as giving a speech. In anxiety disorders, the deeply etched memory can result in hypervigilance, making it hard to focus on other things, and leading to feelings of anxiety in many situations. In people who have survived overwhelming trauma and developed PTSD, for example, even mild reminders of the trauma may initiate the fear response. People with specific or social phobia often completely avoid their feared situation. In panic disorder the chronic worry about having another attack may lead to stress-related conditions such as heart problems and irritable bowel syndrome. In people with generalized anxiety disorder, the chronic anxiety may prevent them from focusing on even the simplest tasks. The amygdala, although relatively small, is a very complicated structure, and recent research with animals suggests that different anxiety disorders may be associated with activation in different parts of the amygdala. 1

Research evidence points to genetics as a factor in the origin of anxiety disorders. Scientists have recently discovered a gene that influences fearfulness in mice. And NIMH-supported studies of twins have found that genes play a role in panic disorder and social phobia. Although genes help determine whether someone will develop an anxiety disorder, heredity alone can't explain what goes awry. Experience also plays a part. In PTSD, for example, the trauma is the experience that triggers the anxiety disorder; genetic factors may help explain why only certain individuals exposed to similartraumatic events develop full-blown PTSD. Researchers are honing in on the degree of influence that genetics and experience exert in each of the anxiety disorders information they hope will yield clues to prevention and treatment. 1

Related information for causes of Anxiety Disorders: Further relevant information on causes of Anxiety Disorders may be found in the risk factors for Anxiety Disorders and underlying causes of Anxiety Disorders.

1. excerpt from Anxiety Disorders Research at the National Institute of Mental Health: NIMH

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