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Natasha

This page was clinically reviewed by Natasha Hussain (BA, BACP), Cognitive Behavioural Therapist at Priory Hospital Barnt Green.

Feeling anxious can be an unsettling experience, and it can be made even worse when there’s no clear cause for your anxiety.

If you’re finding that you’re regularly feeling anxious for no apparent reason, this article is here to help. We’ll offer insights into why this might be happening, and suggest ways to manage these feelings effectively.

Why do I have anxiety for no reason?

Anxiety is a natural response to perceived threats and stress. However, it can sometimes emerge without an obvious external trigger, leaving people confused about their feelings.

However, it’s important to understand that anxiety will always stem from something; it might just be that it’s not immediately clear what this is.

If you can’t put a finger on why you’re feeling anxious, consider these factors:

Genetic predisposition

Research suggests that there’s a link between anxiety and genetics.  If you have close family members who struggle with anxiety or other mental health conditions, you may have a higher chance of experiencing anxiety yourself.

This genetic link doesn't guarantee that you’ll develop anxiety, but it does increase your susceptibility. Understanding your family health history can provide valuable context for your own experiences with anxiety.

Medications

Medications, particularly those prescribed for other health conditions, can sometimes contribute to or exacerbate anxiety.

Various drugs, including those for high blood pressure, birth control, and even some over-the-counter medications like cold remedies, have been known to have anxiety as a side effect. Also,  certain steroids and stimulants can increase alertness or energy, which might inadvertently heighten symptoms of anxiety.

Think about whether you’ve recently begun taking any new medications. If so, does it list anxiety as a potential side effect? You should also consider changes in your diet. For example, studies show that drinking too much coffee can be linked to increases in anxiety.  

Life stressors

Stress from various life events, even those that may seem minor, can build up over time and contribute to anxiety. This can include prolonged work stress, relationship difficulties or ongoing financial concerns. These stressors can trigger the body's 'fight or flight' response, leading to symptoms of anxiety.

Individually, these factors might seem small, but overall can add up to triggering serious anxiety.

Physical health

Certain medical conditions or the side effects of medications can exacerbate anxiety. Conditions such as thyroid problems, heart disease or respiratory disorders can have symptoms that mimic or trigger anxiety.

If you're experiencing unexplained anxiety, it may be worth discussing your physical health with your GP. They can explore your symptoms and it may uncover a physical health problem you were previously unaware of.

Environmental factors

Your environment, including your home, workplace and broader community, can significantly impact your mental health. Chronic stress in your environment, like a high-pressure job, difficult family dynamics, or even exposure to persistent noise, can heighten anxiety levels.

For example, loud sirens might trigger memories of a time when you or a loved one were unwell and had to go to hospital. Walking by an ex-partner’s house might trigger anxiety if it brings back memories of a bad breakup.  Some of these external triggers, such as loud noises or bright lights, can also cause overstimulation in people who are neurodivergent. This may then lead to feelings of anxiety.

These types of stressors can be more challenging to identify because they often become a 'normal' part of your daily life, but they can have a profound effect on your mental wellbeing.

Recognising anxiety triggers

Identifying the underlying reason, or trigger, for your anxiety is an essential step towards managing it effectively. Here are some practical strategies you can use to recognise your anxiety triggers:

  1. Keep a journal: one of the most effective ways to identify your anxiety triggers is by keeping a daily journal. Note down when you feel anxious, including the time, your surroundings, and what you were doing or thinking about just before the anxiety began. Over time, patterns may emerge that can help pinpoint specific triggers.
  2. Engage in mindful reflection: take time to reflect on your feelings and thoughts when you experience anxiety. This can involve mindfulness techniques, where you observe your thoughts and feelings without judgement. Through this process, you may discover certain thought patterns or situations that consistently lead to anxiety.
  3. Track physical symptoms: sometimes, physical sensations precede or accompany anxiety. Pay attention to physical cues of anxiety like increased heart rate, sweating or restlessness. Tracking these symptoms can help you connect them to specific triggers.
  4. Discuss with others: talking about your experiences with trusted friends or family members can provide new insights. They might notice patterns or triggers that you weren't aware of.
  5. Analyse your lifestyle and routine: examine your lifestyle and daily routines. Factors like sleep patterns, dietary habits, and exercise can influence mental health issues like anxiety. Changes in these areas or certain habits may correlate with anxiety episodes.

By using these methods, you can start to understand your anxiety triggers better. Recognising these triggers is a crucial step in developing effective strategies to manage and cope with your anxiety.

Coping when you have random waves of anxiety

Dealing with sudden and unexplained anxiety can be challenging. You could try using a few of these simple but effective strategies for calming anxiety:

  1. Mindfulness and breathing exercises: practising mindfulness can help you stay grounded in the present moment, reducing feelings of anxiety. Breathing exercises, such as deep diaphragmatic breathing, can really help by bringing physical symptoms under control.
  2. Physical activity: engaging in regular physical activity, such as walking, jogging, yoga or swimming, can release endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Exercise also helps in diverting your mind from anxious thoughts.
  3. Self-reflection: keeping a journal or engaging in reflective practices can help you identify patterns or triggers in your anxiety. Write down your thoughts and feelings to provide an outlet for expressing what you're going through.
  4. Establishing a routine: a consistent daily routine can provide a sense of stability and predictability, which can be comforting when you're dealing with anxiety.
  5. Social support: talk to friends or family members about your feelings; they’ll be able to listen to what you’re going through and provide comfort and understanding. Joining a support group can also connect you with others who are experiencing similar issues. You can find ones near you in directories like Hub of Hope.
  6. Relaxation techniques: activities like meditation, Tai Chi, or progressive muscle relaxation can help in reducing anxiety.
  7. Professional support: consulting a mental health professional can provide you with tailored advice and strategies. Therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are particularly effective in treating anxiety disorders.

While there are some steps you can take yourself to reduce the severity of your anxiety symptoms, if they persist and are severely affecting your life, then it might be time to seek professional help from a provider of mental health treatment such as Priory.

Get in touch and find out how we can help put you on a path to better wellbeing.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0330 056 6020  or submit an online enquiry form here. 

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