7 Underlying Factors That Create Anxiety And Stress

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated May 20, 2021

Anxiety can create many symptoms, including odd and even bizarre symptoms.[1] Once symptoms appear, they can persist indefinitely in spite of your best efforts to eliminate them. It’s no wonder so many people who struggle with anxiety disorder distress about their symptoms.

But, we don’t need to.

Anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress.[1] To eliminate anxiety symptoms, we have to reduce the body’s stress and give it time to recover. As the body recovers, anxiety symptoms subside.

For more information about the link between anxiety and its symptoms (both acute and chronic), visit our “Anxiety Symptoms,” “Stress Response,” and “Hyperstimulation” articles.

While reducing stress is relatively straightforward (there are many natural ways to reduce stress, including spending more time in nature), it can be undermined by the stress that comes from anxiety’s underlying factors – those behaviors, situations, and circumstances that create anxiety.

Unidentified and unaddressed underlying factors can cause symptoms to persist in spite of our best efforts to reduce stress. Unless those underlying factors are successfully identified and addressed, they can continue to create the unhealthy anxiety that creates stress and symptoms.[2]

For more information, visit our “Anxiety Mechanism,” “What Causes Anxiety,” and “Underlying Factors: The Cause Of Apprehensive Behavior” articles.

---------- Advertisement - Article Continues Below ----------

---------- Advertisement Ends ----------

Many anxious people struggle with recovery because they are unaware of their underlying factors.

Often we hear recoverees say, “I’ve been doing everything correctly for months but my symptoms are still the same. What’s going on?”

Or, “Over the last few months, I’ve seen most of my symptoms subside. But in the last couple of days, my symptoms have spiked again. I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong. Why have my symptoms spiked again?”

Or, “I’ve been following your recommendations and most of my symptoms have disappeared. But, a few of them are still lingering no matter what I do. Why?”

Or, “Thanks to your information, I got rid of all of my symptoms. I was feeling great for months! But a few weeks ago, many of my symptoms returned. I don’t understand why this happened. I’m not doing anything different. What caused this?”

Unidentified and unaddressed underlying stress-causing factors is one of the main reasons for a stalled recovery or return of symptoms.[2] Unless you are working with a therapist who has correctly identified your underlying factors, they are most likely the reason for your prolonged struggle or a return of symptoms.

---------- Advertisement - Article Continues Below ----------

---------- Advertisement Ends ----------

To give you an idea of some of the underlying factors that can prolong recovery or cause a return of symptoms, here are 7 of the most common underlying factors that create anxiety and the stress that create symptoms:

1. Worry

Worry is an unhealthy behavior that can greatly stress the body, and in a hurry.

Worry is fear-based. Every time we worry, it activates the stress response. The degree of stress response is directly proportional to the degree of worry.

If you are mildly worried about something over a long period, that worry will stress the body over that period. Chronic stress can cause hyperstimulation and symptoms.

If you are acutely worried about something, that worry can spike stress to a high degree and quickly. Even a few hours of acute high-degree worry can sufficiently stress the body to the point of hyperstimulation and symptoms that could linger for days.

Worry is a behavior that can generate a lot of stress quickly, which is the reason why it is one of the top ten unhealthy behaviors that creates issues with anxiety, stress, and symptoms.

2. Health anxiety

Worrying about your health can stress the body quickly and substantially.

Every worrisome thought triggers a stress response and one that is proportional to the degree of fear. If you have high degree health anxiety, your body will experience high degree stress.

Health anxiety is a common catalyst into a struggle with anxiety disorder and its symptoms.

3. Catastrophizing

Catastrophizing is imagining the worst-case scenario and then reacting to that imagined threat as if it were real.

Since catastrophizing is fear-based worry, it can also spike the body’s stress and in a hurry.

The more often you catastrophize, the more stressed the body becomes.

Catastrophizing is a common unhealthy behavior that fuels issues with anxiety disorder and symptoms.

---------- Advertisement - Article Continues Below ----------

---------- Advertisement Ends ----------

4. Unhealthy relationships

If you are in an unhealthy relationship that regularly stresses you, the stress coming from that relationship can be sufficient to cause hyperstimulation and symptoms.

There are many reasons why we enter and endure unhealthy relationships, such as unhealthy underlying factors (unhealthy beliefs about yourself, your mate, how you think relationships should work, unaddressed underlying factors from both parties, etc.).

Unless each person has identified and worked on their underlying factors, they can fuel discord that causes a great deal of stress in relationships.

Being in unhealthy relationships is a common underlying factor that creates and fuels hyperstimulation and symptoms.

5. Unhealthy boundaries

Unhealthy boundaries is one of the most common reasons for unhealthy relationships.

Healthy boundaries set limits on personal responsibility. If those limits aren’t set, clearly defined, and respected, relationships can struggle and create a lot of stress from the conflict.

Unhealthy boundaries is a common underlying factor that causes issues with anxiety disorder.

6. Crisis living

Crisis living can be defined as: treating every life situation and circumstance as if it is intensely difficult, serious, or dangerous.

Because crisis living is fear- and drama-based, which triggers stress responses, living as if everything is a crisis creates significant stress.

If you approach life as if everything is a crisis, it won’t take long for your body to become hyperstimulated and symptomatic.

Crisis living is a common underlying factor that creates issues with anxiety, stress, and symptoms.

---------- Advertisement - Article Continues Below ----------

---------- Advertisement Ends ----------

7. Anger/frustration

Being angry and frustrated also triggers stress responses. The more angry and frustrated you are, the greater the stress.

Anger and frustration stem from unhealthy behavior. They are often caused by underlying factors that fuel anxiety and its symptoms.

If you find you are often angry or frustrated, those behaviors could be the very reason your recovery efforts aren’t producing the results you want.
Any one or combination of the above underlying factors can cause issues with anxiety, stress, and symptoms.

If you are struggling to eliminate your anxiety symptoms, identifying and addressing your underlying factors, which can include any of the above, can not only remove the barrier to symptom-free living but can also lead to a more rewarding and satisfying life experience.

Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way of overcoming anxiety disorder because it identifies and successfully addresses the underlying factors that cause issues with anxiety disorder and its symptoms.[3][4]

These are just 7 of the over 100 underlying factors that can cause issues with anxiety disorder, stress, and symptoms. Unless your specific underlying factors are identified and successfully addressed, they can continue to cause problems with recovery and symptom elimination.

Here is a graphic that quickly summarizes the 7 underlying factors we highlighted:

7 Underlying Factors That Create Anxiety And Stress image

Recovery Support members can read the article “10 Underlying Factors That Create Anxiety And Stress” for more information, including mention of 10 additional underlying factors.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our Anxiety Articles page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including 7 Underlying Factors That Create Anxiety And Stress.


1. Folk, Jim. “Anxiety symptoms.” Anxietycentre.com, Jan 2020.

2. Folk, Jim. “Underlying Factors: The Cause Of Apprehensive Behavior.” Anxietycentre.com, Jan 2020.

3. Hofmann, Stefan G., et al. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2012.

4. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017.