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Self-help program

What is causing your anxiety?

Worrying usually begins with a concrete worry. A person may be afraid that something bad could happen. Someone might be concerned that they won’t be able to deal with a large amount of work, and someone else is afraid that a person close to them could have an accident.

The cause is the sum of many factors

Rather than being caused by one single thing, anxiety develops due to the sum effect of many factors.

Hereditary factors make some people more susceptible to various anxiety and mood disorders. The environment can also affect whether this susceptibility develops into a psychological disorder and what symptoms this disorder causes.

Hereditary causes

  • Susceptibility to various anxiety and mood disorders is partly hereditary.
  • Some people are born with a temperament that makes them more likely to react to various situations with worry and fear.
  • The majority of people who suffer from generalised anxiety disorder perceive themselves as a bit of a worrier and worried about many different things.

Environmental causes

  • Stressful life events can make a person susceptible to generalised anxiety disorder.
  • Childhood experiences can also be significant.
    • For example, an insecure childhood environment can affect the severity of anxiety experiences.
    • Sometimes it can be due to behaviour models that are learned from parents. For example, a child may learn from their parents that being concerned is a good thing and a sign of conscientiousness.

In the video (2:45), leading psychologist Jan-Henry Stenberg tells how much of the anxiety is considered to be explained by hereditary factors. You'll also hear how other things, such as learned behavior patterns, influence anxiety tendencies.

Anxiety can also be accompanied by muscle tension. Muscle tension can become an automatic reaction in anxiety-provoking situations. Later, even a slight tension in the muscles can start to act as a hint that something unpleasant is happening.

Aggravating factors

Anxiety is increased by avoidance of certain situations. For example, avoiding bus trips can maintain the fear a person has of travelling on public transport.

Excessive alcohol use can also increase anxiety and lead to a poorer treatment outcome. 

Taking other problems into consideration


Worrying is also associated with depression in many cases. As a rule of thumb,

•    a depressed person usually worries about past events
•    while an anxious person worries about events in the future.

Other anxiety disorders

There are other anxiety disorders in addition to generalised anxiety disorder, such as

•    fear of public spaces (agoraphobia)
•    panic disorder
•    social anxiety disorder.

Like depression, other anxiety disorders can occur at the same time as generalised anxiety disorder.

Intoxicants and relationship with food

When dealing with excessive anxiety, we naturally try to find ways to manage it. However, sometimes the methods we choose are harmful. These include excessive alcohol use, restricting our eating or eating too much.


There are often many different causes behind anxiety. In the video (1:50), people who have experienced anxiety give examples of what they think may be behind their anxiety.

Exercise: What affects my anxiety


You will learn to recognise factors that have increased your anxiety.


List things that you believe have an effect on the start, maintenance and worsening of your anxiety and worry.

Things that I believe have an effect on my anxiety

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