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What causes anxiety disorders?

The causes of anxiety disorders.
A young girl covering her face with her hands
© University of East Anglia

Several things play a role in causing the overactive “fight or flight” that happens with anxiety disorders.

They include:

  • Genetics A child who has a family member with an anxiety disorder is more likely to have one too. Children may inherit genes that make them prone to anxiety.
  • Brain chemistry Genes help direct the way brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) work. If specific brain chemicals are in short supply, or not working well, it can cause anxiety.
  • Life situations Things that happen in a child’s life can be stressful and difficult to cope with. Loss, serious illness, death of a loved one, violence, or abuse can lead some children to become anxious.
  • Learned behaviours Growing up in a family where others are fearful or anxious also can “teach” a child to be afraid too.

Anxiety disorders cause extreme fear and worry, and changes in a child’s behaviour, sleep, eating, or mood. Different anxiety disorders can affect children and teens.

In the upcoming steps we will cover these disorders.

© University of East Anglia
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