Anxiety is a natural human emotion, but when it intensifies or becomes persistent, it can interfere with daily life. If you’ve noticed your anxiety getting worse, it’s essential to understand the possible reasons and learn strategies to manage it. In this article, we’ll explore the factors that contribute to worsening anxiety, how to recognize the signs, and offer suggestions to help you regain control.
Key Takeaway: Anxiety can be caused by various factors, including ongoing stress, bereavement, financial problems, and key events such as a job interview.
Avoiding experiences and coping with anxiety alone can cause inactivity and uncontrolled thoughts, which can make anxiety worse.
A big event or a buildup of smaller stressful life situations may trigger excessive anxiety, such as a death in the family, work stress, or ongoing worry about finances.
Certain personality types are more prone to anxiety disorders than others. Health issues such as a cancer diagnosis or chronic illness can trigger anxiety or make it worse.
If you feel like you’re worrying too much and it’s interfering with your work, relationships, or other parts of your life, or if your anxiety is impeding your day-to-day life, it’s time to seek help. You can check out my review of Betterhelp, which is a online therapy service that works amazing for someone with anxiety.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal emotional response to a perceived threat or stressor. It can help us stay alert and prepare for challenges. However, when anxiety becomes excessive or disproportionate, it may indicate an anxiety disorder that can disrupt daily life.
Causes of Anxiety
Anxiety can be triggered by various factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life experiences. Situations like facing a deadline, dealing with financial issues, or having relationship problems can all contribute to feelings of anxiety.
The Intricacies of Anxiety: How It Develops and Progresses
Anxiety is a natural response to stress, but when it becomes chronic or overwhelming, it can significantly impact your life. There are various reasons why your anxiety may be getting worse. Identifying these factors is the first step in managing and overcoming it. In this article, we’ll delve into the possible causes of worsening anxiety and provide practical solutions to help you regain control of your mental wellbeing.
1. Nutrient Deficiencies: The Overlooked Link to Anxiety
Nutrient deficiencies can contribute to anxiety by affecting the proper functioning of your brain and nervous system. When your body lacks essential nutrients, it can disrupt the production and regulation of neurotransmitters responsible for mood and stress response. Here are some of the key nutrients that play a role in anxiety:
Magnesium is essential for nerve function and helps regulate stress response. A deficiency in magnesium can lead to increased anxiety and stress.
Solution: Incorporate magnesium-rich foods into your diet, such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, or consider taking a magnesium supplement for anxiety relief.
Vitamin B Complex
B vitamins, particularly B6, B9 (folate), and B12, are crucial for maintaining mental health and regulating mood. Deficiencies in these vitamins have been linked to anxiety and depression.
Solution: Consume a balanced diet that includes foods rich in B vitamins, such as leafy greens, whole grains, lean meats, dairy products, and fortified cereals. You can try a B-6 and B12 blend that is part of a our list of mood boosting supplements
Vitamin D is known for its role in maintaining bone health, but it also plays a significant part in mood regulation. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased anxiety and depression.
Solution: Get regular sun exposure, eat foods rich in vitamin D like fatty fish, eggs, and fortified dairy products, or consider taking a vitamin D supplement under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain function and have been shown to help reduce anxiety. A deficiency in omega-3s can negatively affect mental health and exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
Pro tip: While it’s not cheap, consider getting Cymbiotikas B6, B12, and Magnesium Threonate. This will provide you with the building blocks that include ingredients you can convert to make you calm. You can also consume omega-3-rich foods, such as fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, or consider taking an omega-3 supplement.
Unresolved past trauma can significantly contribute to the worsening of anxiety. Traumatic experiences, such as abuse, accidents, natural disasters, or the loss of a loved one, can leave a lasting impact on an individual
‘s mental and emotional health.
When past traumas are not properly addressed or resolved, they can manifest as anxiety disorders or worsen existing anxiety symptoms.
Unprocessed trauma often results in emotional triggers that can bring about feelings of anxiety. These triggers can be seemingly harmless situations, objects, or even conversations that remind the person of their traumatic experience. When confronted with these triggers, the individual’s anxiety levels can spike, causing them to feel overwhelmed or fearful.
Hyperarousal and Hypervigilance
Past trauma can lead to a state of constant hyperarousal or hypervigilance. This heightened state of alertness can cause individuals to be overly sensitive to their surroundings and perceive threats where none exist. As a result, their anxiety levels can remain consistently high, making it difficult for them to relax and feel safe.
Intrusive Thoughts and Memories
Unresolved trauma can cause intrusive thoughts and memories related to the traumatic event. These thoughts can be repetitive, distressing, and difficult to control. When the individual is unable to process these memories or thoughts effectively, they can exacerbate anxiety and make it challenging to manage daily life.
Difficulty Regulating Emotions
Past trauma can impair an individual’s ability to regulate their emotions. This inability to manage emotions effectively can lead to mood swings, anxiety, and even depression. When emotions become overwhelming, the person may struggle to maintain a sense of control, further contributing to anxiety.
Maladaptive Coping Mechanisms
In an attempt to cope with unresolved trauma, some individuals may develop maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, self-harm, or unhealthy relationships. These coping mechanisms may provide temporary relief, but they often worsen anxiety in the long run and create additional problems in the individual’s life.
Pro Tip: Consider trying online therapy such as BetterHelp or find a counselor in your area. They’ve had millions of therapists and counselors help people overcome anxiety, read more about how great they are with our Betterhelp review. Addressing and healing from past traumas can turn down the volume of anxiety in your body. This process will empower you to break free from the grip of anxiety and foster emotional resilience.
3. Chronic Stress: The Silent Contributor to Anxiety
Chronic stress is a constant and prolonged period of stress that can cause a variety of physical and psychological problems, including anxiety.
Chronic stress can affect both our physical and psychological well-being by causing a variety of problems including insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system.
The long-term activation of the stress response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follows can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of many health problems, including anxiety.
Chronic stress slowly drains a person’s psychological resources and damages their brains and bodies. People experiencing chronic stress might feel incapable of changing their situations.
There are cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioural signs of chronic stress. Hypertension, depression, addiction, and anxiety disorders are the conditions most related to chronic stress.
There are several ways to manage chronic stress. Physical activity increases energy levels and concentration while lessening feelings of anxiety. Experts recommend going to bed at a regular time each night to enhance sleep quality.
Striving for a positive outlook by looking at situations more positively, seeing problems as opportunities, and refuting negative thoughts are all important aspects of staying positive and trying to minimize your stress. Seeking professional help from mental health professionals is also recommended for those suffering from chronic stress
Pro Tip: Implement stress management techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, and time management to reduce chronic stress and keep anxiety at bay. Using a rhodiola supplement if you’re stress and have troubles sleeping can help you feel relaxed and calm
4. Sleep Deprivation: The Unseen Catalyst for Anxiety
Sleep deprivation can instigate or worsen anxiety disorders. People who are prone to anxiety are especially sensitive to sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep increases cortisol, which can then increase anxiety. It is more likely for a lack of sleep to cause anxiety when other factors are present, such as negative thoughts.
Anxiety is a feeling of worry and unease that becomes excessive in anxiety disorders. Physically, anxiety disorders can provoke tense muscles, rapid breathing and heartbeat, sweating, trembling, gastrointestinal distress, and fatigue.
Anxiety disorders can also interrupt both professional and personal activities. Over time, a person with an anxiety disorder may get used to being worried such that the likelihood of sleep disruptions increases. Nightmares may reinforce negative associations and fear around going to sleep .
Sleep plays an important role in mental health. Sleep deprivation studies show that otherwise healthy people can experience increased anxiety and distress levels following poor sleep. Not getting enough sleep or poor-quality sleep can increase the risk for mental health disorders like depression or anxiety.
Acute sleep deprivation increases the likelihood that an individual will experience elevations in both anxiety and depression. As such, sleep deprivation may set the stage for the future development of anxiety and depressive disorders.
The links between anxiety and sleep often flow in both directions. Higher anxiety during the night stops people from sleeping, and sleep deprivation makes people more anxious during the day.
To reduce anxiety and help you sleep more soundly, it is essential to establish good sleeping habits like sticking to a regular bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine before bed, creating a comfortable sleeping environment, avoiding screens before bed, exercising regularly but not too close to bedtime
Solution: Prioritize good sleep hygiene by establishing a regular sleep schedule, creating a conducive sleep environment, and avoiding stimulants like caffeine before bedtime.
5. Substance Use: A Double-Edged Sword for Anxiety
Substance use can worsen anxiety and other mental health problems. Alcohol and drug use can worsen the psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety, reinforcing the need to use more of these substances in order to function normally.
This can lead to a cycle of substance abuse that can lead to chemical dependence and addiction. Substance-induced anxiety disorder is nervousness, restlessness, or panic caused by taking a drug or stopping a drug.
While alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use may provide short-term relief from anxiety, in the long-term, it can actually make the anxiety worse as alcohol and drugs often cause panic attacks. Once someone has both an anxiety disorder as well as a substance addiction, a vicious cycle sets in where both disorders worsen each other.
has discussed the impact of cannabis on anxiety. He has stated that some people who use cannabis twice a week or more may experience increased and persistent anxiety. In his podcast, he reviews why cannabis can impact speech patterns and one’s propensity to develop anxiety/depression during and after use.
He also discusses the biological mechanisms underlying the effects of cannabis on the brain and body. While he is supportive of the clinical use of cannabis, he is concerned about its recreational use, particularly in young people.
The data suggests that cannabis use in young people can lead to schizophrenia and psychosis later in life even after cessation of cannabis use
Solution: Seek healthier coping mechanisms, such as exercise, meditation, or support from loved ones, and consider professional help if you struggle with substance use.
6. Physical Health: The Overlooked Connection to Anxiety
Anxiety and physical health are closely related. Living with untreated anxiety can cause significant issues for both mental and physical health. Chronic anxiety and stress can increase a person’s risk of infections, metabolic diseases, and even cancer. The fight-or-flight response is set off by anxiety.
Hormones are released that raise the heart rate and breathing rate, giving the brain more oxygen to prepare for a dangerous situation. While the immune system gets a brief boost, the chronic release of these hormones can make it difficult for the body to return to its normal state.
Anxiety also affects the nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, immune, and respiratory systems, among others. Long-term anxiety can cause physical stress on these systems.
For example, anxiety can trigger digestive issues such as stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea or constipation. Anxiety disorders may also lead to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) after a bowel infection.
Also, people who have health problems that last for a long time are more likely to have mental health problems like depression or anxiety. Mental health problems can come with physical symptoms such as headaches and fatigue.
Depression can also cause a loss of appetite and other digestive issues.
Taking care of your physical health is essential in managing anxiety. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms by releasing endorphins, which make you feel happier and less stressed.
A healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables is also beneficial for both mental and physical health.
Pro Tip: Find a workout friend, try a sauna blanket,, go swimming, or just go for a walk after dinner can help reduce your anxiety levels. I use my sauna blanket when I have a low mood or feeling anxious.
7. Social Isolation: The Hidden Enemy of Anxiety
Social isolation can worsen anxiety in several ways.
Firstly, social isolation can lead to emotional isolation, which is an unwillingness or inability to share one’s feelings with others.
When socially isolated individuals lack emotional interaction and support, they can become emotionally numb and detached from their own feelings.
Secondly, social isolation can cause mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Studies have found that being isolated from others is comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day.
Thirdly, someone who becomes isolated has fewer social interactions with others. This means they may be slightly more anxious than normal when they next engage with others, further isolating them in the long run.
Social isolation and loneliness are strongly associated with anxiety and depression across the lifespan. Loneliness is a subjective feeling of isolation. A person can be socially isolated but not feel lonely.
A person can also feel lonely when they are surrounded by people. Chronic loneliness is most likely to set in when individuals either don’t have the emotional, mental or financial resources to get out of their situation or don’t know how to do so.
To break the cycle of social isolation and anxiety, it’s important to identify those at risk or in need of support and craft a care plan that addresses their unique situation.
Therapists help by exploring underlying issues related to isolation or self-isolation. For example, a person’s isolation may be a sign of depression. Social networks can also be used to identify those in need of extra social support.
Pro tip: Consider trying online therapy to help you break the cycle of not having a large social circle.
8. Unhealthy Thought Patterns: The Cognitive Culprit of Anxiety
Negative thought patterns can be a symptom of both anxiety and depressive disorders. There are different forms of repetitive negative thoughts, such as rumination, worry, and cognitive distortions.
Rumination is more commonly associated with depression, but it also occurs in anxiety.
Worry and rumination are both unproductive ways of thinking about the same thing over and over again. They both involve having long, uncontrollable thoughts about the future or the past.
Cognitive distortions are extreme and inaccurate ways of thinking that can lead to increased anxiety and stress.
There are several types of cognitive distortions. Filtering means paying attention only to the bad things about a situation and ignoring the good things.
Emotional reasoning assumes that whatever you’re feeling must be true. Fortune-telling involves repeatedly predicting that situations will turn out poorly.
All-or-nothing thinking sees things as black or white with no middle ground. Overgeneralization involves making sweeping conclusions based on a single event.
Breaking the cycle of negative thought patterns requires practiced coping skills. One way to stop spiraling negative thoughts is to play out the worst-case scenario and see how you feel about it. Breaking down your emotions and moods can help you identify automatic thoughts that trigger anxiety or depression.
It’s important to recognize negative thought patterns without judging them harshly or trying to suppress them. Instead, try to reframe them in a more positive light or challenge their accuracy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on finding and changing negative thought patterns, is a good way to treat anxiety and depression. CBT helps you develop coping skills to manage their symptoms by challenging your beliefs about themselves, others, and the world around them
Pro tip: Employ cognitive-behavioral techniques to challenge and replace negative thoughts with more balanced, rational perspectives. You can do this by asking your these questions when you have negative thoughts.
9. Lack of Self-Care: The Silent Sabotage of Anxiety
Lack of self-care can make anxiety worse. Living with untreated depression or anxiety can eventually lead to physical health problems. Chronic stress caused by not taking care of yourself has a big effect on the immune system, which shows up in the form of physical symptoms.
Pain, anxiety, and depression often coincide because the parts of the brain and nervous system that handle sensations and touch interact with those that regulate mood and emotion.
Depression is a mental disorder, but it can also have effects on the heart, kidneys, nervous system, and other parts of the body. Practicing self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities that bring joy can help alleviate anxiety symptoms. It’s important to prioritize both physical and mental health to maintain overall well-being.
Pro tip: Dedicate time to self-care activities like exercise, relaxation, and hobbies to ensure
Why does your anxiety suddenly get worse?
Anxiety can suddenly get worse due to various triggers. A big event or a buildup of smaller stressful life situations may trigger excessive anxiety, such as a death in the family, work stress, or ongoing worry about finances. Health problems, like cancer or a long-term illness, medications, or a lack of nutrients, can also cause or make anxiety worse.
Consuming caffeine can make anxiety symptoms more severe. Another thing that can make anxiety symptoms worse is not breathing correctly, which can lead to hyperventilation.
Some personality types and other mental health disorders may also play a role in sudden increases in anxiety. To stop or lessen sudden panic attacks, it’s important to find and deal with the things that set.
Taking care of yourself by doing things like deep breathing exercises, meditating on the present moment, and getting regular exercise can help manage anxiety symptoms.
What are signs that your anxiety is getting worse?
Anxiety is a natural human response to uncomfortable thoughts or situations, and it can even be helpful in certain ways. But anxiety can be a problem when it gets too bad and starts getting in the way of daily life. Here are some signs that your anxiety may be getting worse:
1. Chronic worrying about unlikely events, even after reassurance.
2. Bodily symptoms that get in your way such as digestive issues, chest tightness, racing heartbeat, fatigue.
3. Difficulty controlling worry.
4. The urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety.
5. Changes in eating habits such as eating less or more than usual.
If you experience any of these signs, it may be time to seek help from a cool mental health professional who can teach you techniques to help you put things in perspective and distinguish between normal anxiety and extreme stages of anxiety.
Lifestyle changes such as deep breathing exercises and allowing yourself to feel the anxiety instead of brushing it aside may also help minimize anxiety
5 Effective Coping Skills for Managing Anxiety
- Deep Breathing Exercises: Deep breathing exercises can help calm your body and mind during moments of anxiety. One technique, called diaphragmatic breathing, involves inhaling deeply through your nose, allowing your diaphragm to expand, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth. Practicing this exercise for a few minutes can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): PMR is a technique that involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in your body. Start by tensing a specific muscle group, such as your hands or feet, for a few seconds, and then relax those muscles. Gradually work your way through the rest of your body. This technique can help relieve tension and anxiety by promoting physical relaxation.
- Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness meditation encourages you to focus on the present moment non-judgmentally, helping to reduce anxious thoughts. Start by finding a quiet place to sit or lie down, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Regular mindfulness practice can help reduce anxiety and improve emotional well-being.
- Cognitive Reframing: Cognitive reframing is a technique used to challenge and replace negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety. When you find yourself thinking negatively, try to identify the underlying thought pattern and replace it with a more rational and balanced perspective. This process can help you gain control over your anxiety by addressing its cognitive roots.
- Physical Activity: Engaging in regular physical activity can help alleviate anxiety by releasing endorphins, which are natural mood elevators. Exercise also helps to regulate the production of stress hormones and promotes relaxation. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week to help manage anxiety and improve overall mental health.
Conclusion: Managing Anxiety and Taking the Next Steps
We have explored various factors that can contribute to worsening anxiety, such as unresolved trauma, chronic stress, sleep deprivation, substance use, physical health issues, social isolation, unhealthy thought patterns, and nutrient deficiencies.
We also discussed effective coping skills to manage anxiety, including deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, cognitive reframing, and physical activity.
The next steps in managing anxiety involve identifying the factors contributing to your anxiety and addressing them through a combination of the coping skills mentioned above and seeking professional help if needed.
This may include working with a therapist or counselor, discussing concerns with a healthcare provider, and maintaining a balanced diet to address potential nutrient deficiencies.