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Deanne Repich is an internationally
known anxiety educator, teacher, author, and former
sufferer. She is the creator of the Conquer Anxiety
Program, author of more than one hundred articles on
anxiety, and a member of the Anxiety Disorders
Association of America.
You too can join the tens of thousands of people in over
40 countries that have used Deanne's techniques to take
back control from anxiety! We're here to help you every
step of the way. You are not alone, and you CAN feel
Deanne's articles have been featured on highly respected health and
personal development web sites such as About.com, Self-Growth.com,
and she has appeared as a Guest Expert in publications worldwide.
What Causes an Anxiety Disorder?
THE AUTHOR: Deanne Repich is the Founder of the National Institute of Anxiety and Stress,
Inc., an anxiety educator, teacher, and former anxiety sufferer. Deanne created
the Conquer Your Anxiety Success Program, a simple, action-oriented
"how-to" course that has helped thousands across the
globe conquer their anxiety.
She also conducts seminars, writes articles, and publishes the
free "Anxiety Tips" newsletter.
Then you'll love our Conquer Anxiety Success Program.
Click Here to
Several of our members have asked: "What causes an anxiety
disorder? And which of these causes do I have control over?"
Here are answers to these important questions.
What Causes an Anxiety Disorder?
There are several factors that can contribute to an anxiety
disorder. An anxiety disorder is caused by a combination of
several of these factors working together over a period of
time. Usually one factor alone does not result in an anxiety
Several of the contributing factors are:
-- Biological Factors
-- Stress Overload/Lifestyle Factors
-- Childhood Environment
-- Thought Patterns
-- Genetic Factors
We all have an inborn "fight or flight" response
to protect us from harm. When our survival is threatened,
the fight or flight response creates physical and psychological
changes that encourage us to act and protect our survival.
These changes include rapid heartbeat, muscle tension,
shallow breathing, and more.
People suffering from anxiety disorders often have a
physical overreaction to stress. This overreaction occurs
because your body perceives everyday events and
situations as threats to survival. In an effort to protect
you, your body triggers the fight or flight response even
though no real danger exists.
There is some indication that an overreaction to stress is
caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. However,
we don't know what initially causes this chemical
It has not been proven which occurs first - the overreaction
to stress that causes the chemical imbalance, or the chemical
imbalance that causes the overreaction to stress.
Can I change it?: Yes. What's important to realize
if you overreact to stress, you can learn to change it, no
matter how it began. You can learn deep breathing tech-
niques, relaxation techniques, and techniques such as the
Anxiety Pyramid (all included in our course) to train your
body to react more calmly.
Stress Overload/Lifestyle Factors
When you experience excessive stress over time, your
body can trigger the fight or flight response and start to
react to daily events as if they were dangers. Poor
lifestyle habits such as overwork, lack of sleep, poor
diet, and lack of regular exercise can cause unnecessary
stress and promote anxiety.
Let's look at an example of how stress overload and
lifestyle factors can contribute to anxiety. Donna works
70 hours a week for several years. This puts excessive
stress on Donna's body. To make matters worse, Donna
is so busy working that she only manages to get five or
six hours of sleep a night, she doesn't exercise regularly,
and she eats mainly fast food. She can't remember the last
time she took time out for herself.
Do you see how Donna's lifestyle creates stress in her
life and produces a negative snowball effect? Over time
Donna's body starts perceiving these constant stressors
as a threat to her survival. Her body eventually gets
"burned out" from repeated unnecessary stress reactions.
It is on a constant state of alert - contributing to the
physical and mental symptoms of anxiety.
Can I change it?: Yes. You have the power to reduce
or eliminate many of the stressors in your life. You do this
by integrating healthy lifestyle habits - by making choices
that promote calmness, self-care, and a balanced lifestyle.
For example, sleep eight hours a night instead of six. Eat
well-balanced, healthy meals. Work 40-50 hours a week
instead of 70, and so on.
You can also learn to view stressors in a less anxious
way so your body does not overreact to stressors when
Your childhood environment affects how you think and act
as an adult. Even though the adults around you meant well,
as a child you may have learned habits and beliefs that
contribute to anxiety.
For example, you may not have been taught to have a
sense of control over your world. You may have been
expected to achieve as a way of gaining love and acceptance.
You may have been taught all or nothing thinking or were
not allowed to freely express your feelings or opinions.
You may have grown up in an environment that was not
physically or emotionally safe. You may have been frequently
judged or criticized. Or you may have grown up watching
and modeling adults around you that reacted to life in an
Can I change it?: Yes. No matter what your childhood
environment was, you can change the anxiety-producing
thought patterns and habits you learned then through
knowledge and practice.
How you think affects how you view the world and how
you react to stress. Negative thought patterns like
thinking, perfectionism, all or nothing thinking, and victim talk
can contribute to an anxiety disorder. In fact, negative
thoughts can actually create physical symptoms in your
Can I change it?: Yes. Research shows that you
the power to change your thoughts, which can in turn affect
how you physically and mentally feel. Through healthier
thoughts, you can learn to view the world in a less anxious
way and feel better.
How do you change your thoughts? By using the three
"R"s we discussed in the last newsletter: Recognize,
Research shows that panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive
disorder tend to run in families. Although there is some debate,
it appears that part of this family tendency is due to how you're
brought up (environment) and part is due to genetics. There is
some indication that genetic factors are also involved in social
Can I change it?: No. We cannot change our
the bad news. Now here's the good news. You can
positively change all of the other factors we discussed that
contribute to anxiety.
And like we mentioned earlier, usually one factor alone does
not result in an anxiety disorder. This is exciting news!
It means that if you learn to successfully address
the other factors that contribute to anxiety, you can
conquer your anxiety in spite of genetic factors.
Note: If you would like to learn skills to change how
you react to stress, reduce the stress in your life, learn
anxiety-fighting lifestyle habits, and change your anxious
thought patterns and behaviors, try our Conquer Your
Anxiety Success Program, available at:
© Copyright March 27, 2002 by
Deanne Repich and the National Institute of Anxiety and Stress,
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