We get a lot from our parents. Bone structure, our first car, eye color, money habits, etc. It’s well-known that we can inherit certain health conditions from them as well (you’re 50% more likely to develop migraines if either of your parents experiences them) Recently, evidence has emerged that suggests anxiety may be one more thing that we can get from our parents (and this is clinical anxiety, which is much more than ordinary nervousness that we all experience). Quit Monkeying Around! Dr. Ned Kalin and a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison analyzed brain scans of rhesus monkeys and found that the ones that displayed signs of anxiety had a family history showing stress-related symptoms in their brain wave patterns. While the study was complex, the takeaway is that anxious thought patterns may not be merely adult occurrences but can have their roots in one’s genes. This is groundbreaking, as the cause of anxiety had previously been largely unknown. While ongoing research is being conducted to say conclusively that anxiety is hereditary, the current evidence can have important implications for us culturally. If it is, in fact true, that individuals may have a genetic disposition to a stress-related illness, there’s a lot we can do, and it all starts with being informed. Educate Yourself How much do you really know about anxiety disorders? Many people seem to have a faint understanding but, like many other forms of mental illness, do not have a solid grasp of it. For starters, there are a few different kinds, including phobias, panic disorder, and social anxiety. Individuals who experience anxiety have reported feelings of suffocation, profuse sweating, a choking sensation, and other overwhelming symptoms. Learn more about anxiety and other related conditions here. Do Your Mental Family History It can be difficult to discuss uncomfortable topics (such as mental illness) with family, but you need to know if you are at risk so that you can better manage your own physical and emotional well being. Think of learning about your mental family history as early detection (just as you would with cancer). Ask your parents if they had experiences with anxiety so you can be better equipped to care for yourself. Take Action If you find yourself worried to the point that your feelings interfere with your ability to function or engage in meaningful relationships, know that there is help! Reach out to others close to you for support, then be your own advocate in finding a mental health professional with a speciality in working with clients who suffer from anxiety. Trained counselors can teach you ways to redirect negative thought patterns through such strategies as Cognitive-Behavioral-Therapy (CBT) and others. They may also refer you to a psychiatrist, who can prescribe anxiety-reducing medications. While anxiety may never go away completely, you can learn skills to manage it and live a full and meaningful life.
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