DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I am 34 and over the past few months have been feeling anxious and worried more often than not. I’ve never had issues with anxiety or depression before, and can’t pinpoint anything that’s led to my anxiety. What causes anxiety? At what point should I see a doctor?
ANSWER: Anxiety often stems from a combination of factors. A person’s individual makeup — your biology and genetics, for example — certainly plays a role. But your circumstances and experiences have an impact, too. Sometimes it can be hard to identify the exact cause of anxiety. The good news is you don’t always need to know what triggered anxiety to have it successfully treated. If anxiety is interfering with your daily life, see your doctor.
A variety of anxiety disorders exist. Some are conditions that have specific triggers and symptoms, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias. In other cases, though, ongoing anxiety may come from a wide variety of sources. That condition is known as generalized anxiety disorder. It sounds like your situation could fall into this category.
Uncertainty is a big part of anxiety disorders. Of course, uncertainty is part of life. No one really knows how something is going to turn out. Whenever we get into a car, for example, there is always a possibility that the car could break down. But, for the most part, we don’t worry about it. Generally, we accept that things will be OK unless we see a warning sign of danger.
For people with an anxiety disorder, that reasoning is flipped. Instead of feeling everything is OK unless there is a sign of a problem, they look for proof that everything is safe. If that proof is not evident, it’s hard for them to shake their worry or fear.