Anxiety and panic attacks
Explains anxiety and panic attacks, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
What causes anxiety?
Everyone's experience of anxiety is different, so it's hard to know exactly what causes anxiety problems. There are probably lots of factors involved.
This page covers some things which make anxiety problems more likely to happen:
Difficult experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood are a common trigger for anxiety problems. Going through stress and trauma when you're very young is likely to have a particularly big impact. Experiences which can trigger anxiety problems include things like:
- physical or emotional abuse
- losing a parent
- being bullied or being socially excluded
- experiencing racism.
Having parents who don't treat you warmly or are overprotective can also be a factor.
I was sent to boarding school and suffered acute separation anxiety, being away from home, and my brother nearly died when I was 12. My mum had an acute breakdown for a period of about a year and had to be home-nursed.
Current problems in your life can also trigger anxiety. For example:
- exhaustion or a build-up of stress
- lots of change or uncertainty
- feeling under pressure while studying or in work
- long working hours
- being out of work
- money problems
- housing problems and homelessness
- worrying about the environment or natural disasters (sometimes called climate anxiety or eco-anxiety)
- losing someone close to you (sometimes called bereavement)
- feeling lonely or isolated
- being abused, bullied or harassed, including experiencing racism.
Big changes to your day-to-day life can be a particular trigger for anxiety, so you may find that you've experienced anxiety problems during the coronavirus pandemic. For information on how coronavirus may have affected your mental health and what could help see our coronavirus and mental health pages.
I have recently realised that I spend money when anxious, which in turn makes me feel anxious about how much I'm spending.
Other health problems can sometimes cause anxiety, or might make it worse. For example:
I had cut out alcohol. Many think drinking alcohol helps with anxiety, but it actually makes it worse in the long run.