Under the Hood

4 Things That May Worsen Anxiety

While it is normal to experience anxiety now and then, some of us are more vulnerable than others when it comes to certain triggers. Here are four things that might worsen anxiety symptoms. 

1. Excess alcohol, caffeine

Need two glasses of your favorite wine to unwind from work in the evening? While it may help you relax temporarily, you should remain cautious as alcohol could become a crutch, increasing the risk of addiction.

Researchers have also been studying a phenomenon they call "hangxiety," where people with social anxiety may experience a significant increase in their symptoms during a hangover. 

Similarly, you may want to cut back your caffeine intake to low or moderate levels if you have noticed your anxiety worsening. Consuming too much of the stimulant can lead to jitteriness for certain individuals, experts say.

2. Not getting enough sleep

"Sleep loss triggers the same brain mechanisms that make us sensitive to anxiety to begin with — regions that support emotional processing and also regions that support emotion regulation," Eti Ben-Simon, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, told Popsci

Adults need at least 7 to 8 hours of shut-eye each night. Studies have suggested that people who are natural worriers are among those who experience the greatest impact of sleep loss. "If we are chronically sleep deprived if we keep losing sleep, it could sensitize us to greater anxiety levels and help develop an anxiety disorder," Ben-Simon added.

3. Avoidance or self-criticism

As noted by Anxiety.org, avoidance behavior (for example, avoiding social situations) could bring temporary relief. But in the long run, this will only increase the sense of anxiety around your trigger, making it harder for you to face your fears.

If your anxiety is taking a toll on daily activities, it may help to speak to a mental health professional. Harshly criticizing and berating yourself for experiencing anxiety can actually worsen it. Instead, acknowledge your struggle and practice self-care activities.

4. Spending too much time online 

We recently discussed how checking your emails or performing any work-related activity after office hours have been tied to elevated anxiety levels. But even if your internet activity mostly involves social media and news updates, Dr. Agnes Wainman of London Psychological Services explained how this may be harmful when you are in a vulnerable state.

"You may be exposed to multiple bad news stories all at once, making you feel powerless, hopeless, and worried about the state of the world. You may be unconsciously comparing yourself and your own life to the picture-perfect moments of your friends or even celebrities on social media, and end up feeling bad about yourself," she told Bustle