6 Most Common Anxiety Attack Triggers

6 Surprising Factors Triggering Your Anxiety Attacks 6 Surprising Factors Triggering Your Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety Attack Triggers

What exactly is anxiety? It is a mental health diagnosis that causes excessive worry, fear, and panic over situations that may or may not be anxiety-inducing.

This condition affects over 40 million people in the United States every year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Many people who struggle with anxiety also experience anxiety attacks, which cause both mental and physical symptoms that include but are not limited to:

  • Heart racing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Racing thoughts
  • Nausea
  • Chest pains

Many people have compared an anxiety attack to having a heart attack. With the pressure on your chest, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeat it is easy to see why.

What causes an attack? That is hard to answer, as it is different for every person. Usually, it is a personal trigger from previous life experiences.

Sometimes it can be from external triggers that people fail to realize are anxiety-inducing factors.

6 Surprising Factors Triggering Your Anxiety Attacks

6 Most Common Anxiety Attack Triggers

What is triggering your anxiety attacks?

1. Caffeine

If caffeine was discovered today, it is possible it would be considered an illegal substance. It is a very addictive stimulant that increases the circulation of cortisol and adrenaline. Both of which are two of the biggest things playing into an anxiety attack.

Not only is your body being put into “fight or flight” mode due to the cortisol and adrenaline stimulation, but your heart is also pumping harder and faster due to the caffeine.

If your heart is beating faster, your breathing becomes more shallow and your oxygen becomes restricted.

These three symptoms of caffeine are the three biggest physical symptoms of an anxiety attack.

2. Change of environment

Being in an unfamiliar place is often unsettling to many people. You do not know where to go while driving, the food might be different, and your comforts of home are gone.

This leaves you on edge and more in your survival mind due to the lack of understanding of your surroundings.

The majority of people in the world would choose the comforts of home and be unhappy with their lifestyle versus changing their environment because of the anxiety and fear it causes. This is due to the fact you know what to expect.

Even if you are not happy, you at least know what your workday will consist of and how your night will go.

A change in environment is a shock to your system and there will always be an adjustment period. This is normal to help your body regulate your new lifestyle, even if it is temporary.

Although, since you are unfamiliar and out of your comfort zone, you will have higher chances of having an anxiety attack because you are out of your element. Being in that position makes you more sensitive to everything around you.

3. Diet

There are two parts to a diet that can impact your anxiety and general mental health.

The first is the amount of food you eat. If you eat too little or too much, your body will not be able to function properly.

It is shown that people with eating disorders will regularly have severe anxiety and depression. This is due to not having the proper nutrients or vitamins you get with a balanced diet.

The second is the type of food you eat. The foods you should be eating to have the least amount of anxiety are foods on the outside aisle of the grocery store.

What that means is you should shop in the aisles as little as possible. Those are foods filled with chemicals that mess with your brain and mental health.

These chemicals you are filling your body with mess with the natural chemicals in your brain. Eating healthy is not only great for your body, but it will also help your mental health immensely as well.

4. Social media

Between constantly comparing yourself to others on social media and the blue light given off by your phone screen, anxiety is at an all-time high when it comes to technology. Both are terrible for your mind and cause lasting damage.

Mentally and physically. It hurts your self-esteem and makes you feel less than others. The light causes changes to your brain chemistry, which will mess with your mental health as well.

With heightened insecurities and lowered self-esteem, you will be more likely to have panic attacks. This could be due to not feeling good enough, feeling like you are falling behind, or feeling worse about your looks.

The best way to lessen your anxiety through social media is to take the apps off your phone altogether. A social media detox is one of the healthiest things you can do for your mind.

Delete the apps from your phone and do not check them for one month. You will find yourself more involved in your daily life.

Anxiety and anxiety attacks will be lessened. You will also feel more confident, as you are now filling your time doing what you want rather than scrolling a screen.

5. The news

Well, this one may not be super surprising. Anymore, the news is extremely negative and is purposely made to put you on edge.

Being on edge will cause your nervous system to be hyperactive. This can lead to spiraling thoughts, shallow breathing, and the jitters…the perfect storm for an unwarranted anxiety attack.

The first piece of advice my first therapist gave to me was to stop watching the news. It is so hard to get away from. The nightly news, social media articles, and news alerts on your phone mean you are constantly surrounded by negativity.

Turn them all off. She gave that advice ten years ago and I have not watched the news since. I feel so much better without it.

When it comes to anxiety, sometimes ignorance is bliss. You do not need to know what is going on at all times. It is sensory overload. When your senses cannot handle what is being thrown at them, that is when anxiety attacks happen.

6. Medication

Remember how medication commercials list a long line of side effects? “New or worsening” anxiety and depression are almost always at the top of the list for any of them.

Heart medication, thyroid medicine, birth control, antidepressants, and more cause anxiety attacks.

Anxiety attacks are common with new medications. Why? Because the medicine is putting new chemicals into your body and it can be difficult for your body to regulate those new chemicals at first.

If the anxiety attacks do not go away after the initial regulation period, consult your doctor to switch medications. It might not be the right one for you.


Minimizing external factors that could cause an anxiety attack will leave you feeling healthier, happier, and calmer.

While they will not completely take away your anxiety, removing them from your lifestyle will minimize the effects.

See Also

How to Ask Your Doctor for Anxiety Medication

How to Calm Anxiety?


Anxiety Disorders. NAMI. (n.d.). https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders.

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I obtained my Bachelor's of Psychology in 2017 and Masters of Social Work in 2019. I currently work in private practice as a trauma therapist.