Nine Things That Make Your Anxiety Worse

Feelings of anxiety are a normal part of life. Everyday experiences like an important meeting at work, giving a public presentation or engaging in a serious conversation can produce feelings of anxiety. Even mundane events like shopping, running errands, going to school, or getting stuck in traffic can cause anxiety.

Anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in the US, with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affecting 6.8 million adults in any given year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

In Colorado, nearly 30 percent of adults report feeling anxiety or depression, according to one recent survey.

What Causes Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal reaction to situations that are unfamiliar, stressful, or dangerous. Body systems are primed with heightened alertness as part of the body’s “fight or flight” response. These reactions ensure we are aware of and prepared to respond to any perceived threats.

Anxiety becomes problematic when you experience physical and emotional reactions out of proportion to the perceived threat. If those feelings of anxiety persist long after the potential threat has passed, and if the feelings are intrusive and uncontrollable, you may be experiencing generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

9 Things That Make Anxiety Worse

It’s important to understand that anxiety can result from a gradual build-up of negative experiences over time or from a sudden, immediate event. Unpleasant emotions such as frustration, stress, emotional or physical danger, or other similar negative emotions can accumulate over time. When the emotions reach a tipping point, they can result in an anxious episode or panic attack.

Reducing your exposure to triggering circumstances is a key strategy for minimizing anxiety. There is a clear connection between external events and episodes of anxiety. If you suffer from anxiety, you can maintain some control over triggering events and choose to minimize exposure or avoid them altogether. To better manage your anxiety, try to limit your exposure to events, places, and situations that may trigger an anxious reaction.

Here are Nine Things That Can Make Your Anxiety Worse

Interpersonal conflict

Whether you experience conflict at work with a boss, co-worker, or difficult customer, or conflict in relationships at home, the link between interpersonal conflict and anxiety is clear. To the extent possible, minimize negative conflict in order to reduce anxiety. However, avoiding conflict can become a source of anxiety itself if the underlying issues remain unresolved.

Negative internal talk track

A negative internal talk track, full of self-critical observations and pessimism, can increase anxiety. Your own self-talk can sabotage your mental health. Work to redirect negative thought patterns in a healthy way to decrease anxiety.

Poor diet/gastrointestinal issues

There is a close connection between the gut and anxious or fearful feelings. When we experience anxiety, we often feel it in our gut in the form of “butterflies” or a sinking feeling in our stomach. On the other hand, a poor diet and gastrointestinal issues have been linked as a contributing cause to anxiety.

Social situations

Nearly everyone experiences some level of anxiety from social situations. It could be going to a large party, meeting new people for the first time (perhaps at said party), or a work or school event. Not all social events are avoidable, and it would be a poor decision to avoid them altogether, so your best strategy is to acknowledge the situation up front, recognize you will experience some anxiety, and limit the time you spend at the event, if possible.

Financial concerns

Financial concerns have a way of grinding at us day after day, producing a slow building but constant form of anxiety. Struggling to pay bills, worrying about a job loss, or finding yourself unable to make ends meet each month can create a large dose of worry and anxiety.


While several of the items on this list can contribute to stress (social situations, financial worries, or conflict), stress can come from a variety of situations. Even pleasant occasions can cause stress (think spending the holidays with family). Stress can be particularly damaging when you feel unable to control the cause or amount of stress, such as with a demanding or toxic workplace.


Caffeine can be a surprising contributor to anxiety. Caffeine increases heart rate, which can increase feelings of stress and anxiety. Cutting back on sources of caffeine (coffee, tea, and colas) can help reduce anxiety.


Some medications can produce feelings of anxiety, unsettling feelings, or uneasy thoughts. If you suspect your medication may be increasing your anxiety, talk to your doctor. There may be an equally effective medication that uses a different formulation that would not contribute to anxiety.

Major life changes

Major life changes are stressful. Even happy life changes such as getting married, getting a new job, moving to a new house, or having a baby can be significant anxiety triggers. Due to the nature of these major life events, they often cannot be avoided, so having a good coping strategy is an important preparation step.

Treatment For Anxiety

While minimizing causes of anxiety is important, sometimes treatment is required. Anxiety can be treated with lifestyle changes, medication, therapy, and interventional psychiatric procedures, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy (TMS).

Although TMS is primarily used to treat depression, it is also FDA-approved for treating anxious depression (which is a distinct diagnosis from generalized anxiety). Anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand, and TMS is a good treatment choice for both.

The treatment for generalized anxiety using TMS is relatively new, and the FDA has not yet approved generalized anxiety disorder as a principal diagnosis for TMS treatment. However, results from research studies and clinical observation are promising. It’s important to see a psychiatrist for an accurate diagnosis, as TMS may be an appropriate treatment for your condition.

 Anxiety Treatment in Fort Collins

Brighter Day Psychiatry helps patients with anxiety and depression in Fort Collins. Brighter Day offers TMS as a preferred mental health treatment. Dr. Rose George has been treating patients with TMS for more than ten years, with several thousand TMS treatments conducted. She has deep expertise in treating depression and anxiety with TMS therapy.

Call Brighter Day Psychiatry at 970-430-5458 or submit an appointment request to be evaluated to see if TMS is an appropriate treatment option for you.