Causes of Anxiety

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on September 12, 2020

Anxiety may be caused by a mental condition, a physical condition, the effects of drugs, or a combination of these. The doctor's initial task is to see if your anxiety is a symptom of another medical condition.

Common causes of anxiety include these mental conditions:

These common external factors can cause anxiety:

    • Stress at work
    • Stress from school
    • Stress in a personal relationship such as marriage
    • Financial stress
    • Stress from global occurrences or political issues
    • Stress from unpredictable or uncertain world events, like a pandemic”
    • Stress from an emotional trauma such as the death of a loved one
    • Stress from a serious medical illness
    • Side effect of medication
    • Use of an illicit drug, such as cocaine
    • Symptom of a medical illness (such as heart attack, heat stroke, hypoglycemia)
    • Lack of oxygen in circumstances as diverse as high altitude sickness, emphysema, or pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the vessels of the lung)

The doctor has the often-difficult task of determining which symptoms come from which causes. For example, in a study of people with chest pain -- a sign of heart disease -- 43% were found to have a panic disorder, not a heart-related condition.

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