Understanding The Common Anxiety Triggers That Can Cause You To Spiral

Did you know that anxiety is one of the most popular reasons people seek therapy? While we all struggle with stress and discomfort from time to time, some people experience disproportionate anxiety that impacts how they connect with others, function at school or work, and feel about themselves overall.

Although anxiety may seem random, the feeling is usually triggered by some internal or external experience. Likewise, by identifying your anxiety triggers, you can learn healthier ways to take care of yourself without spiraling out of control. 


Shame is one of the most insidious emotions we experience. At its core, shame makes you feel like you are a bad person. It can be unconscious, and it can spiral into a deep sense of self-loathing and depression.

You can internalize shame in many ways. If you were abused by someone, you might believe that you are worthless. If you fail at a particular task, you might associate yourself as stupid. These beliefs can provoke shame, which can make it difficult to feel confident in your own skin.

Shame can also trigger anxiety. You might find yourself feeling skittish, embarrassed, and uncomfortable in certain social settings. These feelings can even lead to avoidance of people or places. 

You might catastrophize about the future and start obsessing over attempting to control how certain scenarios play out. To avoid a potential failure, you may avoid making necessary changes, which can cause boredom and stagnation.


Trauma is the precursor for PTSD, one of the most common anxiety disorders. It inadvertently threatens your sense of safety. When a traumatic event happens, you become hurt in some way- whether it’s physically, sexually, emotionally, or all of the above. This “hurt” can linger for a significant period. In some cases, it can persist for several years. 

Many people experience heightened anxiety as a result of trauma. You may feel paranoid or panicky that history will repeat itself. You may find yourself in a state of hypervigilance, as if you’re always on edge and needing to check your surroundings. You might experience physical symptoms like flashbacks or panic attacks, all of which can aggravate more feelings of anxiety. 

Significant Life Changes

Are you about to start a new job? Did you recently get married or have a child? Are you planning to move across the country?

All changes- even positive ones- can trigger anxiety. Change threatens your natural homeostasis. It represents a rupture in your daily routine. Even if you’ve “planned out” this event, you’re moving into uncharted territory, and there is always an inherent risk for something bad to happen.

Likewise, you have to adapt to this change. You may have to accept a new identity or “normal” in your life. In this transition, you might experience anxiety if and when things don’t go as smoothly as anticipated.


Even when we love them unconditionally, our loved ones can bring out both the best and worst in us. Sure, your friends and family may have good intentions, but problems with communication and personality differences can create enormous stress.

When tension exists in relationships, anxiety tends to increase. If you struggle with people-pleasing, you may feel insecure about potentially hurting the other person. You might worry about abandonment or rejection. 

Furthermore, unresolved relationship problems can exacerbate anxiety. Many people avoid addressing interpersonal issues because it feels so uncomfortable. However, building tension can cause resentment and animosity- all of which can heighten anxiety.  

Grief & Loss

Any type of grief or loss can increase anxiety symptoms. When you lose someone or something valuable, it can dramatically impact your perceptions of yourself and your surroundings.

If the loss happens unexpectedly, the world may feel incredibly fragile. You may start to doubt your safety or the safety of others around you. You might panic about who or what you are going to lose next.

Many people also feel anxious about their ability to cope. Because your definition of “normal” will change, you might doubt your ability to cope with this transition. You might find yourself obsessing or ruminating over what happened. Finally, you might feel a sense of panic or worry by the thought of healing.

Understanding Your Anxiety Triggers & Reclaiming Your Happiness

Understanding your anxiety triggers is only half the battle. You also need to learn how to cope with them should they arise. 

The overarching goal of seeking therapy for anxiety isn’t to remove all feelings of anxiety entirely. That would be unrealistic. However, learning how to manage your symptoms appropriately can help you feel a sense of balance and acceptance over your circumstances.

Are you tired of battling with your anxiety and ready to start feeling better? We are here to help you. Schedule a session with us today to schedule a free consultation.

Willow Counseling, PLLC, Nashville, TN

Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.


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