Many of us have experienced the feeling of anxiety. Our first driving test, having to give a presentation in front of an audience, or interviewing for a new job. These events are all normal moments to experience anxiety — but why are there times when we suddenly get anxious for no reason? Anxiety is a reaction to common life events, but when it becomes so uncomfortable that it gets in way of your day-to-day life, that is when it may be considered an issue or a disorder. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the most common type of anxiety that affects about 3% of the general population, with women being more susceptible than men. Like most mental illnesses, anxiety differs for everyone, and the conditions that can spark anxiety also differ. If you’re wondering, “Why do I feel anxious for no reason?” there are answers available.
Causes of anxiety for no reason
Why do you feel so anxious for no reason? Anxiety can come on without any notice. But there are many different factors and conditions that can trigger or play a role in the development of an anxiety disorder:
- Personality traits
- Childhood experiences and family history
- Chronic stress
- A traumatic experience or time in your life
- Medical conditions
- Substance or medication use
Although anxiety can affect anyone, these factors can contribute to an increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Like most mental illnesses, genetics and environmental factors greatly contribute to the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Age can also be a big factor, with adults being more susceptible to developing anxiety compared to teens. The environment you grew up in or your current environment can play a major role in developing an anxiety disorder. Being in an abusive relationship or household, going through childhood neglect, traumatic events, or having overprotective parents when growing up can contribute to the development of anxiety. Genetics and family history are big factors in the development of GAD, with studies suggesting that there is a 30% chance of developing an anxiety disorder if a parent also has one. Another main cause of anxiety disorders is experiencing a traumatic event such as a car accident, a history of abuse, the death or loss of a loved one, or going through childhood trauma. There are also common substances that can contribute to anxiety including caffeine, alcohol, and cannabis.
It’s important to note that you don’t need to pinpoint the root cause of your anxiety in order to manage it effectively — but having more information about the possible ways you developed anxiety can help with diagnosis and treatment.
Different types of anxiety
Anxiety can come in many forms, including:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD for short, is where a person experiences anxiety symptoms for most of their days in the span of six months.
- Social Anxiety Disorder is when anxiety primarily comes on in social situations, such as at parties, or public outings.
- Panic disorder is encompassed by recurring panic attacks that often come on without any warning signs.
Every anxiety disorder is different. But the one thing they have in common is that they all cause excessive worry that affects thoughts and feelings — getting in the way of daily life. That’s why it’s so important to speak with a clinical counsellor or a doctor as soon as symptoms occur. Getting help early means you can get back to living your life.
Symptoms of anxiety
Anxiety can be exhausting. Even when you are feeling as safe as possible, it can creep up and evolve into a panic, making the easiest and most common tasks seem impossible. To make things worse, you might not even know why you’re anxious. You may be asking yourself, “Why do I feel anxious for no reason?” It takes time to learn what can activate your anxiety. It may seem as though symptoms appear without a cause, but when the nervous system senses danger, the body goes into a state of fight, flight, or freeze. The fight, flight, or freeze response is your brain and body’s natural and automatic reaction to a dangerous situation. The reaction begins in the amygdala, which is responsible for regulating perceived fear. The signal is then sent to the hypothalamus, which stimulates the autonomic nervous system (ANS). When the ANS is activated, the body quickly releases adrenaline and the stress hormone — cortisol. This reaction affects some of your bodily functions such as:
- Increased heart rate.
- Increase the speed of breath during the flight response, and restrict breath during the freeze response.
- Pupils dilate to let in more light and an increase in peripheral vision.
- Ears become sharper to better hear your surroundings.
- Blood thickens to prepare the body to take on injury.
- Hands and feet go cold as blood flows to major muscles.
Common symptoms of anxiety disorders can be uncomfortable to deal with and include feeling restless, fatigued, irritabile, and having shortness of breath. Some may also experience headaches or high blood pressure. Anxiety can even make you feel physically sick, especially when it’s left untreated.
Why you feel anxious for no reason
Can you have anxiety for no reason? It’s very possible. Anxiety symptoms were helpful thousands of years ago when our ancestors were evading lions, tigers, and bears — quite literally triggering life-saving actions. But in today’s modern world, the nervous system can’t always tell when there’s real danger in the environment. What does it mean to be anxious for no reason? The brain interprets common nerve-wracking events, like public speaking, as a life-or-death situation. This triggers the anxious response, rendering a fairly straightforward event into a full-blown panic. You may feel scared and anxious for no reason when the brain and body get confused or misread certain situations as a cause for the fight, flight, or freeze response — even though there is no danger in the environment. This brings on a fast heartbeat, sweating, breathlessness, a feeling of impending doom, and dizziness.
If you are constantly wondering, “Why do I feel anxious for no reason?” the good news is that there are multiple ways you can manage it with a combination of medication, counselling, and supplemental exercises like breathing. There are multiple ways to stop feeling anxious for no reason.
Speaking with a counsellor is an effective method to manage your anxiety and its symptoms. There are various types of talk therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is one of the most well-researched and practiced forms of treatment, shown to be effective for a wide range of mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders. Learn more about counselling for anxiety.
Medication is another form of treatment that many people with anxiety opt for. Common medication for anxiety includes antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, and beta blockers. These help to manage uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety, making day-to-day life more manageable. In combination with medication, some greatly benefit from attending support groups and sharing their experiences with anxiety.
Breathing exercises calm the nervous system and anchor you to the present moment. A method of breathing that tends to help is imagining blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, or doing the 4-7-8 breathing technique of inhaling through your nose for four seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling through your mouth for eight seconds.
Living a healthy lifestyle
Going outside and getting some fresh air, reducing screentime, and listening to music can also calm uncomfortable symptoms. These approaches distract your brain and offset the feeling of anxiety, giving your body a chance to recalibrate. Getting a good night’s sleep or journaling are also helpful habits.
Get help for anxiety
Living with anxiety is difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. That is why it’s important to seek help as soon as you feel the onset of symptoms. Many people with anxiety have been able to move past their disorder. Even if it seems impossible right now, the combination of the right treatments can make things better. Experiencing anxiety? You’re not alone. Online anxiety counselling can help. They are equipped with the right tools to help you understand your anxiety and manage it. Get help today.