A person's genetics, biochemistry, environment, history, and psychological profile can all contribute to the development of anxiety disorders. Most people with these disorders seem to have a biological vulnerability to stress, making them more susceptible to environmental stimuli than the rest of the population.
Studies suggest that an imbalance of certain substances called neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) may contribute to anxiety disorders. The neurotransmitters targeted in anxiety disorders are gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine. Serotonin appears to be specifically important in feelings of well being, and deficiencies are highly related to anxiety and depression. Stress hormones such as cortisol also play a role.
Brain Structure Factors
Studies using imaging techniques, particularly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have helped to identify different areas of the brain associated with anxiety responses.
Review Date: 01/27/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.