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Risk factors implicated in anxiety disorders are divided into two major groups: predisposing risk factors, which mean that some people are more likely to suffer a disorder than others (that is, they are more vulnerable), and the triggers that make the disorder appear. The sum of these predisposing and triggering risk factors is what make an anxiety disorder more or less likely to appear.
Predisposing risk factors
Family background. There is a family component in the development of some anxiety disorders, which means that if a person has any of these disorders, their family members are also more likely to have them. This does not mean that the children of a person with an anxiety disorder will necessarily develop the disorder.
Toxins during pregnancy. Certain situations or contact with some substances during pregnancy (serious problems with nutrition, consumption of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, certain prescription drugs, or high levels of cortisol, among many other factors) can cause a person to become vulnerable to developing some type of disorder, including anxiety disorders.
Parenting style. Factors related to parenting style can also generate a predisposition to developing an anxiety disorder. An insecure bond between babies and their caregivers (for example, not meeting the child’s needs when demands attention, applying a contradictory parenting style, or not conveying unconditional security and love), as well as an overly authoritarian or overprotective parenting style, are also related to having an increased vulnerability to suffering these disorders.
Triggering risk factors
Stress. Situations of stress such as those arising from problems at work or in family or social relationships, favor the appearance of symptoms of anxiety.
Personality. Another factor that can sometimes encourage the development of an anxiety disorder is a person’s personality. People who tend to be inhibited and shy may have a greater probability of developing anxiety disorders. However, it must be remembered that no single risk factor alone is decisive in the appearance of these disorders. In addition, when devising an intervention, risk factors are not as important as factors that help maintain the disorder. The latter are the focus of psychological interventions and must be modified to achieve good results, regardless of the causes of the disorder.