What causes stress and anxiety

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You may not always know what is causing your stress and anxiety. Find out about some common stressors and how they can change over time.

Key points

  • Stressors are things such as events, thoughts or emotions that cause stress or anxiety such as having a major test, starting a new round of treatment, missing school or fighting with a friend.
  • Stressors can change over time, for example something that was a stressor at the beginning of your treatment no longer causes stress and anxiety for you.
  • It is more common for people with cancer to feel a high level of stress at certain times such as at diagnosis, when receiving treatment or when treatment ends.

Sometimes people know what causes their anxiety and sometimes they don’t. The things that may lead to stress are called 'stressors'.

Common stressors

Stressors are things that happen in your life that cause stress or anxiety. We usually think of stressors as being harmful. Anything that forces you to adjust or change can be a stressor. Certain thoughts and emotions can also act as stressors. For example, if you are awake at night worrying about how people at school will react when they see your changed appearance, you might feel stressed and anxious.

Common stressors for teens with cancer can include:

  • having a major test such as an MRI
  • losing your hair or seeing other changes in your appearance
  • starting a new round of treatment
  • getting an infection

Stress can also be caused by non-medical things, including:

  • missing a friend’s party
  • not being able to spend as much time with your friends as you would like
  • missing school or events
  • breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • not having enough privacy at home or in the hospital
  • having a bad night’s sleep
  • fighting with a friend or sibling

Feeling like you’re missing out on having a social life can be a major source of stress.

On their own, each of these situations might be manageable, but when you experience them together, they can add up and become overwhelming!

Stressors can change

Stressors can also change over time. Something that is stressful one day might not be stressful on another.

There are certain times when it is common for people with cancer to feel a high level of stress, including:

  • when you’re first diagnosed
  • when you’re receiving treatment
  • when treatment ends
  • when you re-enter your social circle and go back to school or work as a 'cancer survivor'
  • if you hear that the cancer has returned

What things have caused you stress or anxiety?

Last updated: September 3rd 2019