Anxiety is a broadly-based term related to a number of disorders, including social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and phobias. And those disorders produce a number of different symptoms, like fear, rapid heartbeat and sleeplessness. If anxiety disorders and their symptoms are wide-ranging, so too are the associated anxiety triggers, or stressors.

Anxiety triggers can come from external stressors, like starting a new job, using an elevator or even falling in love. They can also come from internal stressors like perfectionism, learned reactions or belief systems.

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Learn More About Anxiety Triggers to Help Manage Them

If anxiety triggers are as multifaceted as everything else related to anxiety disorders, getting a deeper understanding of them, their common factors, can help you better manage your anxiety symptoms and learn to live with them.

1. Your Body Sees a Trigger as a Threat

It may be difficult to think of it this way, but anxiety is a natural instinct. In fact, it is linked to one of the three basic instincts, self-preservation.

Self-preservation can cause a flight or fight response in the face of danger. Your breathing increases to get more oxygen into your system, your heart beats faster to get more blood to your muscles and your mind races to make quick decisions about what to do next.

Unfortunately, your body sometimes perceives certain situations as a threat to your safety when no real threat exists. The symptoms of that false flight or flight response are also classic symptoms of anxiety.

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2. Triggers Can Be Difficult to Identify

Many anxiety triggers are obvious. You walk into an elevator, you’re instantly fearful, your heart races and your palms are sweaty. The elevator, or any small enclosed space, is the stressor.

But very often you can experience symptoms of anxiety for no apparent reason. If you have difficulty identifying what brings on anxiety symptoms, try to make note of your situation or experiences each time the symptoms appear. You may not be able to instantly discover the trigger(s), but you can narrow things down and start to eliminate the uncertainty about why  you have the reactions.

3. There is No Set ‘Formula’ for an Anxiety Trigger

We can generalize and say that triggers create a perceived danger within us that brings on anxiety symptoms. But certain triggers can stretch that rule-of-thumb to the point where the connection is difficult to make.

For example, the fear of public speaking is not based on any real danger. But we can make the connection of a perceived fear based on a person’s concern about making a mistake in front of a lot of people.

But that ‘recipe for anxiety’ isn’t the same for someone who walks into a room and experiences symptoms because of the colour of the walls.

Also, something that triggers severe anxiety symptoms in one person might have no effect on another anxiety sufferer.

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4. You Should Not Always Try to Avoid Anxiety Triggers

We generally don’t like experiencing anxiety symptoms, so a natural reaction is to avoid their triggers. But avoidance can make it difficult or impossible to ever manage your symptoms. The fears or concerns we have about a particular trigger can become worse if we never attempt to face them.

5. Try to Use Your Anxiety Triggers to Learn More About Yourself

Again, a natural reaction to anxiety triggers is to ‘take flight’ from them. You can feel that all they do is cause unwanted symptoms.

But they often exist for a reason. They can help you get a better understanding of yourself. You may have learned beliefs or engrained reactions that might be disrupting your life for no real reason. An angry reaction that might affect a relationship might have roots in an anxiety trigger.

Learning more about your triggers can help you manage your anxiety and reveal things about yourself you may not have realized.

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Whether or not you take steps to better understand your anxiety and its triggers, they may still affect your life in unwanted ways. If you feel you need help to manage your anxiety, please contact us here at BRCook Psychological Services and schedule an appointment.

Bruce R. Cook

I have been a practicing mental health professional for the past 26 years and I have worked in various public and private practice settings throughout the GTA and Ontario. The populations that I work with are adults 18-64 and I have extensive experience working with both individuals on various presenting problems, and also as a couples’ therapist.

I am a certified solution-focused therapist, and I integrate a number of theoretical orientations into my practice including cognitive-behavioural, humanistic, psychodynamic, reality focused therapy. In essence, my experience and style have been dynamically moved into an eclectic approach that best seems to fit the client and their personal needs.
Bruce R. Cook