Why Some People Are More Prone to Anxiety Than Others

Depressed young woman crying on the couch, stress, anxiety, loneliness

Although it can sometimes feel like you are the only person impacted by anxiety, many suffer from the condition in various ways.

Anxiety is a mental health disorder that can affect people from all walks of life, regardless of age, gender, background, or personality. 

While some people may be more predisposed to anxiety due to specific influences, including background, genetic, environmental, or psychological factors, it is a profoundly common mental health disorder.

For example, a 2013 study highlighted that around three million Canadians aged eighteen years or older reported having a mood or anxiety disorder.

Many said their anxiety affected their life ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely’. 

While other participants in the study said, ‘their anxiety impaired their ability to perform basic activities, including going to work or socialising with friends’.

However, while anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses, along with depression, bipolar, and borderline personality disorder, some research shows that anxiety disorders are likely to affect some people more than others.

This article explores why certain people are more prone to anxiety and provides treatment options and strategies to manage your symptoms if you think you may be struggling.

Reaching out for help and support from a mental health professional can be extremely beneficial, as anxiety is highly treatable.

Contact one of our friendly Centres for Health and Healing specialists to learn more about our anxiety treatment program.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a mental health condition that can impact your well-being and daily functioning.

There are various types of anxiety disorders, including:

If you’ve ever experienced that stomach-churning, heart-thumping sensation where your thoughts are racing, and you feel entirely out of your depth, you’ve likely had anxiety at some stage.

Some experts describe it as a natural and normal response to stress or a perceived threat.

You may feel uneasy, worried or fearful about future scenarios or events and replay (real or imagined) situations in your mind, which often trigger or exacerbate your anxiety.

While anxiety can be a helpful response, alerting you to something dangerous or potentially life-threatening, it can become problematic when these responses are excessive, chronic, and begin to interfere with your daily life.

Anxiety symptoms

Anxiety is your body’s way of preparing you for ‘fight’ or ‘flight’, a natural stress response that produces physical symptoms, including the following:

  • Fast or shallow breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
Anxiety disorder up close

As well as physical, you may also experience emotional symptoms of anxiety, such as:

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Tearfulness
  • Excessive worry or concern that is hard to control or regulate
  • A sense of dread or doom

Although many of us will experience anxiety at some point, some literature shows that certain people are more prone to developing the condition than others.

Let’s explore why this is.

Why some people are more prone to anxiety than others

Anxiety is a complex mental health condition, and it can be hard to pinpoint an exact cause – even more challenging is figuring out why some people are more susceptible to developing the disorder than others.

You could say the same with all conditions; why do some people have depression while others don’t? Why do some people develop skin disorders and others have flawless, perfect skin?

Is it a run of bad luck? Unfortunate genetics, or are these conditions more complicated than a set of risk factors?

Most, if not all of us, will likely experience anxious symptoms at some stage.

Whether you’re dealing with a specific health concern, relationship problem, financial difficulty, or if it’s zero degrees outside, and the boiler that worked all summer decides to break down during a snowstorm, these experiences can trigger profound anxiety for many.

Anxiety is an inevitable part of the human experience, given that life is rarely smooth sailing and is often filled with unexpected twists and turns.

However, many people notice their anxious symptoms decrease after a stressful period or crisis. 

In contrast, other people’s symptoms persist long after a stressful event or situation, making them prone to an anxiety disorder.

Researchers have noted some common factors that increase an individual’s likelihood of developing anxiety, some you may find more surprising than others.

These include:

1. Genetics

If you have a family history of anxiety disorders, this can increase the likelihood of developing anxiety yourself. 

For instance, if a family member, such as a parent or sibling, suffers from anxiety, it increases your risk of developing the condition.

2. Brain chemistry

Research shows that specific neurotransmitter imbalances, such as serotonin and dopamine, can contribute to anxiety. 

Some studies show that low serotonin levels can be genetic and can lead to anxious symptoms. 

Moreover, anxiety can cause lower serotonin levels, so knowing which condition caused the other to develop first can be tricky.

Mental health experts explain that anxiety reduction strategies can help increase serotonin in the body, including getting enough sunlight every day (at least thirty minutes), regular exercise, daily yoga or meditation, eating more Tryptophan-rich foods, and spending quality time with loved ones.

These lifestyle changes can help reduce anxiety symptoms, allowing people to manage the condition better.

3. Childhood trauma

How developmental trauma effects adults exposed to domestic violence in childhood

Traumatic events or a chaotic upbringing can increase your chances of developing anxiety in adulthood.

Traumas are events that involve danger of death, severe injury or sexual assault. (King’s College London, When bad experiences trigger anxiety: childhood trauma and PTSD, professor Andrea Danese, 16 May, 2023.)

Astoundingly, up to 80% of children are exposed to trauma by the time they reach the age of eighteen in the UK, which can lead to anxiety later on.

According to a report by King’s College London, around one in four children exposed to trauma will have developed PTSD, an anxiety disorder triggered by traumatic events or experiences. (King’s College London, When bad experiences trigger anxiety: childhood trauma and PTSD, professor Andrea Danese, 16 May, 2023.)

Individuals with PTSD may experience severe, impairing and/or persistent symptoms, including:

  • Avoidance behaviours.
  • Reliving the trauma through flashbacks.
  • Physiological hyperarousal – i.e., the individual may feel on edge, jumpy or extremely hypersensitive to sound or other stimulus.

Various trauma treatment options are available to those with PTSD, including EMDR (eye movement desensitisation reprocessing), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), individual therapy, and family support,

4. Personality traits

According to various studies, individuals with specific personality traits, like high neuroticism, may be more susceptible to anxiety.

Some literature showed that individuals who scored low in extraversion or high in introversion were more likely to develop anxiety than those with more balanced scores.

In addition, the research also showed that social inhibition, a personality trait where individuals inhibit insecure or tense behaviours around others, can also be linked to anxiety.

The interaction between anxiety and personality traits has been thoroughly researched, with various studies revealing long-standing patterns and connections. (Personality Traits Associated with Anxiety, BrainsWay.)

For example, the overlap of high neuroticism and low extraversion increases a person’s likelihood of developing either a depressive or anxiety disorder. 

And because these disorders often occur together and have overlapping symptoms, the chances of comorbid depression and anxiety increase. (Personality Traits Associated with Anxiety, BrainsWay.)

5. Physical health conditions

Chronic illness or specific medical conditions can significantly contribute to anxiety.

For example, individuals who have been diagnosed with the following medical conditions are more prone to develop anxiety than those who haven’t:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid issues, including hyperthyroidism
  • Respiratory illnesses, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma
  • Substance addiction or withdrawal

Researchers noted that prolonged activation of the stress response system and excessive exposure to cortisol disrupt all the body’s processes, increasing your risk of headaches, muscle tension, depression and anxiety. (Mayo Clinic, Chronic stress puts your health at risk.)

Woman is working in the office and having headache. Concept of small business.

Other factors that may increase your risk of anxiety include:

  • Working in a high-stress or chaotic job or profession.
  • Environmental factors include living in a noisy, crowded, or unsafe environment.

It would help to remember that anxiety is a profoundly complex mental health condition resulting from various factors. 

Seeking professional help for your symptoms is crucial for managing and addressing anxiety effectively.

Treatment options for anxiety

Sad woman, therapist and care for understanding in support for addiction

Various treatments can help you manage your anxiety symptoms, allowing you to function better and practise healthier coping mechanisms during difficult or stressful periods.  

Treatment options for anxiety can include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps change unhelpful beliefs, attitudes or behaviours contributing to your anxiety, teaching you healthy coping skills for dealing with various problems.
  • Applied relaxation therapy involves learning to relax your muscles in situations where you’d typically feel anxious, for example, while driving or sitting for an exam.
  • Medication: your doctor or physician may prescribe specific medicines to help with your anxiety symptoms. Many find combining medication and talking therapies helpful and can result in better treatment outcomes.  

Additional anxiety treatment options

Additional therapeutic options for anxiety can include the following as part of an integrated treatment program:

Anxiety treatment at Centres for Health and Healing

Centres for Health and Healing provide personalised addiction and mental health treatment to clients in Ontario and surrounding regions.

Our multidisciplinary team of experienced professionals come from diverse backgrounds and experiences and can diagnose and treat various mental health issues, including depression, substance use disorder, and anxiety.

The journey to wellness and recovery may be daunting and complex, but you don’t have to suffer in silence.

We are here to help guide you in whatever way you need. 

With proper treatment, care, and support, you can overcome your anxiety and start living the life you were always meant to. 

Anxiety doesn’t have to be a way of life. 

Contact our friendly team today and kickstart your journey to transformation, wellness and lasting recovery

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