1) Parental Influence: Studies have estimated that as many as 25% of all children grew up with at least one phobic parent. Anxious parents directly teach or indirectly project this anxiety to their children in the form of perfectionistic expectations, rigid discipline, maintaining facades, sheltering children from grief, hurt and other aspects of the “real world” appropriate for their age, encouraging a legalistic understanding of God and the resulting religious lifestyle.
2) Childhood Experience: In general, those who recall their childhood as happy, spontaneous and enjoyable are less anxiety-prone than those with difficult or painful childhood. Those who grew up with a sense of security, love, belonging and unconditional acceptance often has less anxiety than those with vivid negative images of their childhood.
3) Genetic Factors: Research with twins has demonstrated that identical twins have a high probability of sharing anxious disorders. Some studies indicate that this can be as little as 31% or as high as 88%. Whatever the actual percentage is cannot yet be determined. Yet this research suggests there is a genetic component to the propensity to anxiety.
4) Birth Order: Kevin Leman’s The Birth Order Book suggests that first-born children are often over-parented. Conditioned by praise and external encouragement, they are frequently subjected to a conditional, controlling love which says, “We will love you if you…” The results? They take life very seriously, they strive for extremes as perfectionist, they seek constantly approval, and they are driven by stress. Of course, one does not have to be an oldest child to be conditioned to anxiety. Last-borns, for example, were often told they were “not old enough” or “too little” or otherwise ignored by parents pre-occupied with older siblings. Anxiety for them may be rooted in a sense that they are unable to achieve.
5) Personal Temperament: Among the four major temperaments, it is no secret that those gifted Melancholics with their constant self-scrutinizing and obsession with detail are most subject to anxiety. Though Phlegmatics are perceives to be able to quickly acquiesce to their fate in life, Sanguines, those “Let’s have a party” types are often so driven to approval that they will do anything to maintain their popularity, acceptance and overall favorable regard. As Randau accurately pointed out, “A sanguine is an anxiety attack waiting to happen” (p. 24).
Cholerics, generally rather self-centered and fearless, are not normally anxious unless they are subject to being dominated by others or frustrated in the attainment of their vision. When this occurs, unhappy Cholerics can result. Unhappy Cholerics can become vicious, outspoken, cutting, insensitive, angry and anxious people.
Closely related to Cholerics is the “Type A” personality. Type A personalities can be reflected by a number of possible combinations of the four classical temperaments. Whatever the profile, Type A’s are most subject to anxiety attacks. These hard workers are those who obsessively pay attention to every single detail. The drive themselves to success in everything at all costs. Their characteristic impatience and controlling, driven manner are key indicators of heightened anxiety.
6) Peer Pressure: Ministry professionals are not immune from the pressure of others to perform. Threatened by the success of other ministers and ministries, anxiety levels often rise. Unless they, too, can have a church of 20,000 members they feel as if they are failures or, at best, wholly inadequate for the task of ministry.
7) Immature Spirituality: Just because one reads and knows the Bible does not guarantee that they will have lessened levels of anxiety. In fact, some pastors are driven to greater Biblical knowledge because of their anxious fears that they may not know the answers.
“Spirituality” refers to a level of spiritual growth that can turn the ministry over to God daily. It refers to the quiet confidence that even when things go wrong, God is in control.
Though desiring to passionately aspire to the maximum use of God’s gifts, a mature, Biblical spirituality recognizes that God controls both our outputs and outcomes. Both are His and so are we.
8) Original Sin: Perhaps the most obvious cause of anxiety, it was Adam and Eve’s hiding after their sin that started it all. Unfortunately, original sin affected everyone for all time. The church and its ministry professionals are not immune. All have anxieties of some sort or another.
9) Inability To Live The Joy of the Gospel: It is the nature of the Gospel to live without fear and anxiety. Of course, insofar as we continue to sin we will be subject to weakness. We will experience anxiety. But the more we understand and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, live the Gospel we become less bound to guilt, fear, and anxiety and more prone toward living in the spontaneous, confident joy of the Gospel.