17 Anxiety Triggers You Should Be Aware Of

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Anxiety Disorder
Read Time: 5 Minutes
Written by:Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R

Published On: September 28, 2023

Medically reviewed by: Meaghan Rice, PsyD., LPC

Reviewed On: September 28, 2023

Updated On: September 28, 2023


Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions Americans experience — in fact, more than 40 million adults live with generalized anxiety disorder today. Unfortunately, it’s not something to take lightly, either. Anxiety can significantly impact your mental health and negatively affect your well-being, personal and professional relationships, and ability to function normally.

Understanding what triggers your anxiety is crucial for managing stress and improving your quality of life. We’re sharing some of the most common anxiety triggers here, so you can use the information to manage and overcome the impact anxiety has on your life.

Read on to learn more about what triggers anxiety and how you can cope with anxiety.

Common Anxiety Triggers

Here is a list of anxiety triggers you should be aware of:

1. Medications

Research shows that some medications, like birth control pills or steroids, may cause anxiety symptoms or an anxiety attack.

2. Unhealthy eating habits

Consuming too much sugar or processed foods can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels and trigger anxiety.

3. Self-neglect

Ignoring personal needs like hygiene, exercise, and relaxation can increase stress and anxiety.

4. Unhealthy sleep habits

Sleep and mental health have a clear impact on each other. Numerous studies have linked lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep to higher anxiety levels.

5. Caffeine

Caffeine’s stimulant effects can exacerbate anxiety or induce anxious feelings in some people.

6. Work-related stressors

High-pressure work environments or unrealistic expectations have been found to increase the chance of developing intense anxiety or enhance existing symptoms.

7. Conflict

Disagreements with friends, family members, colleagues, superiors, or partners might trigger an anxious response.

8. Health concerns

Worrying about your or a loved one’s health can result in anxious feelings about the future.

9. Social events

For some people, even just the thought of having to attend a social gathering or being in a social situation can provoke fear and social anxiety.

10. Upcoming obligations

Anticipating future events, like deadlines or presentations, is a common trigger for anxiety.

11. Personal finance

Financial stressors like debt or job loss can lead to heightened anxiety levels.

12. Upcoming tests or performance reviews

The pressure to perform well in exams, interviews, and evaluations can cause worry and anxiety for most people.

13. Cluttered home life

In studies, chaotic living environments and excessive clutter have been found to contribute to feelings of overwhelm and anxiousness.

14. Life transitions

Significant changes and life transitions — like moving, starting a new job, ending a relationship, getting married or divorced, or having a baby — can be emotionally challenging and provoke anxiety. While it’s easy to see how adverse life events can cause anxiety, the reality is that even happy occasions can be stressful and cause unrest and stress.

15. Personal triggers

We all have unique personal experiences that can cause anxious responses. Identifying our individual triggers can be critical in effectively managing mental health and anxiety.

16. Unhealthy thought patterns

According to extensive research, negative thought habits and patterns like catastrophizing (imagining the worst-case scenario) can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.

17. Public speaking

The fear of public speaking is one of the most common sources of anxiety — in fact, some research estimates that up to 85% of people might experience anxiety when speaking in public.

How to Identify Your Anxiety Triggers

Before learning to manage triggers of anxiety, you must figure out how to identify them. Managing your mental health is essential if you’re living with anxiety. Fortunately, you can identify and cope with anxiety triggers in several ways.

  1. Journal: Keeping a daily journal where you have time and space dedicated to recording your thoughts and feelings can be incredibly beneficial if you suffer from anxiety. Over time, you can create a list of anxiety triggers.
  2. Take a hard look at your lifestyle: Lifestyle choices can significantly affect how anxiety affects you. Look at your diet, exercise routine, sleep habits, personal and professional relationships, and even work and living environments. Do any of these contribute to stress? Could you make small but positive changes to help reduce the anxiety they caused? The answer is likely yes.
  3. Assess your physical symptoms: Take note of how your body reacts during an anxiety episode. Do you experience an increased heart rate, shortness of breath, or sweating? Identifying physical reactions might allow you to modify unhealthy behavior and thought patterns before anxiety occurs.
  4. Use therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a common therapy for anxiety, focuses on learning to identify negative thoughts and behavior patterns contributing to your anxiety. You can correct these unhealthy patterns through your work and treatment before they trigger your anxiety.
  5. Find support: Especially if you’re comfortable opening up about your anxiety symptoms, finding a support group — or even a support person — can be instrumental in learning to manage your triggers. Find a trusted friend, a family member, or a therapist who can help you navigate anxiety by offering valuable insights and coping strategies.
  6. Use meditation and mindfulness: Mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing exercises keep you focused and present in the moment. When you’re calm and focused, you’ll be better able to notice triggers as you experience them, so you can quickly change your thoughts or behaviors to manage anxiety effectively.

iconExpert Insight

“Being able to understand what activates your anxiety can help you better manage the symptoms and develop strategies when in anxiety provoking situations. For example, knowing that talking to your boss activates your anxiety will allow you to plan ahead and use your strategies to make the conversation more manageable.”
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-R), BC-TMH Jill Daino

8 Ways to Deal with Anxiety Triggers

Dealing with anxiety isn’t always going to be easy, but the right tools and coping strategies can help you become better at the process.

1. Learn what triggers you

Using the above tips, you can figure out what triggers your anxiety. Then, you can avoid or learn to manage your triggers before they get the best of you.

2. Focus on your physical health

Making an effort to focus on your physical health is a great way to deal with anxiety. When you work out, eat healthily, get enough sleep, and go to the doctor regularly, you’re equipped to reduce or relieve anxiety symptoms.

3. Meditate

Meditation has been proven in countless studies to help combat anxiety. Practicing mindfulness regularly promotes relaxation, increases your self-awareness, and drastically improves your ability to respond to stress in healthier ways.

4. Limit your social media exposure

Much research has examined the link between social media and feelings of inadequacy, depression, and anxiety. Limiting how much time you spend doom scrolling can reduce or eliminate the negative emotions associated with comparing yourself or judging your life against others on social media.

5. Set (and enforce!) boundaries

Boundary setting is a powerful and effective way to address anxiety you might experience due to unhealthy or toxic relationships. Whether work-related stress or interpersonal conflicts, establishing boundaries can help you place an essential emphasis on self care and avoiding triggering situations.

6. Use affirmations

Using positive affirmations — healthy and upbeat statements or thoughts you repeat to yourself — has been found to counteract negative thought patterns that might result in anxiety. Especially when practiced consistently over time, affirmations can be very beneficial in reducing anxiety symptoms.

7. Journal

Journaling involves writing down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences so you can process emotions in healthier ways. Journaling can also help you identify patterns or triggers that may be exacerbating your anxiety. It can be an effective tool in between therapy sessions and has been shown in research to help manage anxiety-related mental distress.

8. Work out

Exercising offers a host of mental and physical benefits. According to research, even something as simple as a brisk 10-minute walk can help relieve anxiety symptoms.

iconExpert Insight

“Developing a wide range of coping skills is key given that anxiety can be activated in various situations. Sleep hygiene, balanced nutrition, healthy movement, grounding techniques like square breathing and healthy boundaries can all help manage anxiety symptoms. Reaching out to talk with a mental health professional is also an important source of support and guidance, you do not have to figure this out alone.”
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-R), BC-TMH Jill Daino

Work Through Triggers with a Professional

While numerous self-help tips can help you manage your triggers of anxiety, sometimes you might need a little more. With a mental health care professional, you can work through triggers and learn to manage your anxiety in a healthy, positive, productive way.

Online therapy at Talkspace can be an excellent way to pinpoint and manage the sources and causes of anxiety in your life. Learn how to work through your anxiety and take back control — because no matter how severe your anxiety triggers are, hope and help are always there.

See References

Jill Daino

Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R, BC-TMH, is a clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience as a therapist, clinical supervisor, and program director. She works to support quality clinical care at Talkspace. Her work as a clinician and trainer focuses on the mental health impact of body image concerns and eating disorders across the lifespan.

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