Where does anxiety come from?

People are often interested in where anxiety comes from, and why has it picked them?

I was recently asked to write an article for the Huffington post about inherited anxiety. There is research out there that tells us around 30% of anxiety is inherited, that it’s in our genetics.

The problem with this is that there’s also lots of research that tells us anxiety is mostly learned behaviour.

As a behaviourist, I believe that anxiety is mostly absorbed from our environment (learned behaviour). I base this belief on years of working with anxious clients and noticing what has impacted them. It’s possible to have anxiety without it running in your family and it’s possible not to have anxiety when lots of family members struggle with it.

It all comes down to the familiar nature, nurture debate. There’s no denying that genetics can play a part but one thing that science does agree on is that anxiety is made up of layers.

The layers that build anxiety are these factors:





As I mentioned before, genetics have a role to play. Stress can impact anxiety because it changes our hormonal balance and when our hormones are out of balance, it can create anxiety. Puberty, menopause, perimenopause, and our normal monthly cycle all influence anxiety.

When I talk about environmental factors, what I mean are the collection of things in your world (past and present) that make you feel anxious. The range of possible environmental factors is huge and can include anything that makes, or has made us feel out of control, insecure and anxious. Usual suspects are critical or cold parenting, difficult times and trauma.

My belief is that learned behaviour is the major component in anxiety.

This means that we learn how to be anxious as a coping mechanism in everyday life.

Some have grown up with an anxious parent who reacts in an anxious way to life’s challenges. As a child we absorb how parents cope and copy them. We may also absorb a level of fear as a child, despite growing up in a healthy environment. Not feeling good enough, feeling less than a sibling, feeling a bit lost at school, these are all things that can induce a layer of fear.

Regardless of the basis for anxiety, there are tried and (scientifically) tested methods to overcome it. My workbook, available on Amazon contains everything you need to fix anxiety for good.