Why did I develop major anxiety?

Written by Jim Folk
Last updated December 8, 2021

You can read the video transcript below.

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Why Did I Suddenly Develop Major Anxiety Disorder - Video Transcript

I never thought of myself as an overly anxious person. But I recently had a health scare, and now I’m dealing with full-blown anxiety disorder. I don’t understand how that happened. My question is, why did I suddenly develop issues with major anxiety?

Your situation isn’t uncommon.

Many people are surprised to find out they have problems with anxiety.

In an online poll we conducted, just under half of the respondents said they were surprised to find out they had anxiety issues.

As well, many people first discover they have issues with anxiety when their doctor tells them their symptoms are anxiety symptoms. In many cases, the doctor’s diagnosis is the first time they learn they have issues with anxiety.

So again, it’s common to be unaware that you have issues with anxiety until anxiety becomes a bigger problem.

That’s because the underlying factors that drive anxious behavior often develop early in life. And since they develop early in life, coping with life in an overly anxious manner “feels” normal.

So, it doesn’t seem like anything is out of the ordinary. In fact, most anxious people think everyone deals with adversity, uncertainty, and risk the way they do.

Furthermore, since the anxious environment they grow up in also seems “normal,” there is no reason to think their behaviors are overly anxious, even though they are.

When life is uneventful, they get along just fine. However, when a challenge comes along that touches on one of their major triggers, such as a serious medical issue, their anxious behaviors kick into high gear. Then it’s not long before they are dealing with major anxiety problems.

So it’s not that anxiety disorder “came out of the blue,” but that the right circumstances triggered an overly anxious response.

The more serious the issue, the greater the anxious response and the more obvious it is they have issues with anxiety.

Then, once anxiety gets rolling, it can be difficult to stop.

Furthermore, if they become anxious about being anxious, such as overly worrying about anxiety symptoms or the impact of anxiety, a vicious cycle can ensue where a situation triggered their anxiety issues, they become worried about their anxiety issues, that worry creates more anxiety, an increase in anxiety creates more concern and issues, and so on.

A common catalyst for anxiety disorder is when a situation triggers a strong anxious reaction, and then the person becomes anxious about their anxiety.

Overall, it’s not that you suddenly developed issues with anxiety but that your underlying factors were in place long ago, and a specific circumstance triggered them into action.

Typically, the more underlying factors you have, the greater the problem with anxiety.

For more information about anxiety’s underlying factors and how they develop, visit our Anxiety Underlying Factors article (the link in is the comments).

Recovery Support members can read through chapter 7, which provides greater detail and insight into anxiety’s underlying factors, the circumstances they develop, and the impact on our behaviors and approach to life.

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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 Frequent Questions archive.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including this Frequently Asked Anxiety Question.