10 Common Anxiety Triggers

Health Writer
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Triggers are different than causes

No one really understands what causes an anxiety disorder, but it is generally thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. This is different than a trigger. A trigger is a person, place or thing that brings on feelings of anxiety. For example, if you are afraid of dogs, seeing a dog walking toward you might trigger your anxiety. While triggers are often different for each person, there are some triggers common to many people with anxiety.



Caffeine is a stimulant — one reason so many people rely on a cup of coffee to start their day. But caffeine can also make you feel nervous and agitated, especially if you give in to the second or third cup of coffee. For many people, having a cup of coffee or tea will trigger feelings of anxiety. People with panic disorder and performance social anxiety disorder seem to be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, according to a study published in the Journal of Alzheimers Disorders.



Dehydration can affect your mood, causing you to feel tense, confused and angry, according to a study published in Nutrients. Staying hydrated helps you stay focused and keeps your body running properly. For some people with an anxiety disorder, body changes caused by dehydration can bring on a panic attack or feelings of generalized anxiety.



A number of different medications can cause anxiety or worsen symptoms of anxiety. Some medications used for asthma, blood pressure, cough, birth control, and congestion may trigger feelings of anxiety. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications can have these effects.


Illnesses and infections

Lyme disease, some tumors, and nutrient imbalances can all cause anxiety. If your anxiety has worsened or if you have suddenly developed anxiety, it might be helpful to have a complete physical checkup and talk to your doctor about illnesses that could perhaps be contributing to your anxiety.


Skipping meals

We all know how important it is to our overall wellbeing to eat a balanced meal. But when you have an anxiety disorder, skipping meals can bring on feelings of anxiety due to a drop in the body’s blood sugar.


Negative thinking

It’s possible to trigger anxiety with your own thoughts. When something goes wrong, your first thought might be, “Oh, this is going to turn out terrible.” That thought alone can trigger anxiety.


Weight loss supplements

Many weight loss supplements contain caffeine, even if it isn’t listed on the ingredients. For example, green tea extracts and guarana have caffeine. Another ingredient, ephedra, can cause increased heart rates and anxiety. It is a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking any weight loss supplements.


Thyroid problems

Your thyroid produces hormones that your body uses to regulate metabolism and energy. But hyperthyroidism, when your thyroid produces too many hormones, can cause nervousness and other symptoms that mimic anxiety symptoms, such as heart palpitations, irritability, and insomnia.



If you are experiencing stress, either in your personal life or at work, your anxiety symptoms can worsen. Stress can also lead to behaviors, such as skipping meals, not sleeping, drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs, which can all increase feelings of anxiety.


Personal triggers

Personal triggers can sometimes bring about a bad feeling or a bad memory. For example, a certain smell might remind you, consciously or unconsciously, of a traumatic event, which can then trigger anxiety. This is most common in post-traumatic stress disorder but can occur with any type of anxiety.