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The Role of Stress in Anxiety


July 18, 2019 | Published by

For many people, stress and anxiety are recurring issues that come on after certain life events, but then go away. Common triggers are life changes such as getting married, having a child, moving, starting a new job or school, or becoming injured or being ill. For many people, the anxiety fades way once the stressful event is over.

But when stress is left unmanaged, it can become chronic and lead to excessive anxiety. (1) Additionally, substances like caffeine, drugs, and alcohol can add stress and make anxiety worse. Even drugs such as asthma inhalers, thyroid medicine, and diet pills can worsen the effects of stress and anxiety. (2)

 Symptoms of anxiety

Severe, ongoing anxiety that interferes with daily activities is often referred to as generalized anxiety disorder. Individuals with this disorder experience excessive anxiety or worry on a near daily basis for at least 6 months.

The source of anxiety can be a number of stressors including personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances. Symptoms of anxiety disorder include:

  • Feeling wound-up, restless, or on-edge
  • Struggling to control feelings of worry
  • Becoming easily fatigued
  • Suffering from sleep issues, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep
  • Suffering from brain fog
  • Being irritable

In addition to psychological symptoms, anxiety can also affect the way you feel physically. (4) Physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Muscle tension
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Headache
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Elevated heartbeat
  • Stomachache

Causes of anxiety

Research shows that anxiety disorders may be caused by chemical imbalances in the body. Severe or long-lasting stress can change the balance of chemicals in the brain that are responsible for our moods. (5)

Studies also have shown that anxiety disorders are genetic, which means that they can be inherited from one or both parents. Additionally, certain environmental factors — such as a trauma or significant event — might trigger an anxiety disorder in people who have an inherited susceptibility to developing the disorder. (5)

Common stressors include:

  • Moving
  • Getting married
  • Starting a new school or job
  • Having a baby
  • Divorce or breakup of a relationship
  • Experiencing an illness or injury
  • Death of a family member or friend
  • Having a friend or family member who is ill or injured

Drugs that contain stimulants may make the symptoms of stress and anxiety worse. Regular use of caffeine, illicit drugs such as cocaine, and even alcohol can exacerbate anxiety. (6) It’s also possible for prescription medications such as asthma inhalers, diet pills, and thyroid medications to increase anxiety.

While experiencing excessive anxiety can take a real toll on your life, it can become manageable with the proper self-care. For tips on managing anxiety, read out blog (link) regarding stress and the mind.


  1. Anxiety Disorders. Mayo Clinic.
  2. Stress and Anxiety. Healthline.
  3. Anxiety Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health.
  4. Stress and Anxiety. Healthline.
  5. Anxiety Disorders. Cleveland Clinic.
  6. Causes of Anxiety. WebMD.

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