Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Causes of anxiety

Anxiety can affect your ability to concentrate.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder that can affect ability to concentrate, sleep and carry out ordinary tasks.

The causes of anxiety and the reason anxiety affects some people to the point where it interferes with their lives is not fully understood.

It is clear that some level of anxiety under certain circumstances helps us to grow up safely and judge risk in a protective way.

When anxiety becomes a problem, these so-called 'appropriate responses' appear to begin to occur more frequently in circumstances where they are not necessarily helpful.

A range of factors are thought to contribute to anxiety symptoms which can then go on to become disorders. Most anxious people are probably born with a genetic vulnerability to develop an anxiety disorder.

The causes of anxiety include:

Family history of mental health issues

A family history of mental health issues can be a contributing factor. But it doesn't mean if there are mental health issues in your family you will develop anxiety.

Ongoing stressful situations

Ongoing stressful situations - such as job issues or changes, unstable accommodation, family or relationship breakdown and grief. If you have experienced physical, sexual or verbal abuse, life threatening events or pregnancy and childbirth, you may be at risk.

Physical health issues

Physical health issues can be the underlying cause of anxiety disorders. There can be anxiety links for people who have asthma, diabetes, heart disease or hormonal issues, such as thyroid problems. Sometimes anxiety symptoms are the first indication of a physical health issue.

Substance abuse

Substance abuse - particularly cannabis, amphetamines, alcohol and sedatives - can trigger anxiety symptoms. Withdrawing from drugs and alcohol can also cause withdrawal-related anxiety.

Caffeine

Caffeine, as well as some non-prescription and herbal medicines, can sometimes cause anxiety symptoms.

Personality types

Personality types - such as being a perfectionist, having low self esteem or the need to be in control - can make people more susceptible to anxiety.

Everyone is different and often a combination of factors contributes to developing an anxiety condition. Whatever the cause or causes of your anxiety, talking to a general practitioner and a mental health care professional are the first steps to getting the right support and understanding the options for treatment.

At any time, if you feel that you might harm yourself or have thoughts of suicide, talk to family or friends and inform your doctor as a matter of urgency. You can ring a phone service such as Lifeline 13 11 14, available 24 hours a day. If you are the loved one or carer, dial triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: November 2016

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 2536 results

Types of anxiety

The 6 most common anxiety disorders are: generalised anxiety disorder, social phobia, specific phobias, OCD, PTSD and panic disorder

Read more on beyondblue website

MindSpot Clinic | About Anxiety

Anxiety disorders affect 1 in 7 people in Australia each year. Stress, worry, fear and panic are words that describe anxiety.

Read more on MindSpot Clinic website

About anxiety

Links to trusted information about anxiety like anxiety conditions, anxiety attack vs panic attack, anxiety in children and teenagers and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) from leading Australian health organisations.

Read more on mindhealthconnect website

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders in Australia. One in four people will experience an anxiety disorder at some stage of their lives.

Read more on Australian College of Mental Health Nurses website

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

People with GAD feel anxious and worried most of the time which can interfere with their normal lives

Read more on beyondblue website

Social anxiety disorder | Anxiety | ReachOut Australia

There are signs to indicate that somebody might have social anxiety disorder. There are also effective treatments available.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Generalised anxiety disorder | Anxiety | ReachOut Australia

Generalised anxiety disorder occurs when a person worries so excessively and uncontrollably that it starts to affect their life.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Online Course and App for Anxiety (GAD Generalized Anxiety Disorder) | THIS WAY UP

This Way Up helps you combat Generalised Anxiety Disorder with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Learn more about this course.

Read more on This Way Up website

Generalised anxiety disorder | At Ease for Veterans

People with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) worry excessively about a number of different areas of life, such as family, health, finances, and work difficulties. This page provides you with information about generalised anxiety disorder and what you can do about it and where where you can get help

Read more on Department of Veterans' Affairs website

A guide to what works for anxiety

Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where a person feels under pressure, it usually passes once the stressful situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed.

Read more on beyondblue website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback