Is Anxiety Hereditary?

Anxiety, a feeling of uneasiness or nervousness when faced with an important decision to make or faced with an issue at work, is a pretty common emotion people come across. While anxiety is one thing, anxiety disorder is another. Panic disorders, OCD, social anxiety, PTSD and generalized anxiety disorders are all various types of conditions included in the category of anxiety disorders, which means they all can make you anxious.

People with anxiety disorder not only will face every situation with a lot of dread and fear, but also will show physical signs of anxiety like sweating and a racing heart. However the burning question is if anxiety is hereditary or not. Is it possible to inherit it from your parents?

Is Anxiety Hereditary?

While tracing anxiety in family might not be as easy as tracing an eye color or a common facial feature between family members, link between anxiety and genetics has been studied. And the genetic risk of developing anxiety involves multiple genes and is not merely single gene activation.

So in this case, even though the anxiety being experienced by you would be different from that of your parents, there might be a genetic predisposition to being an anxious person. You might develop this at a young age. So much so that anxiety traits related to panic disorder may be obvious at the age of 8. According to studies, for those who are below 20 and affected, their close relatives are likely to have anxiety as well. By tracing the relatives of people suffering from anxiety disorders, it was found out that you’re more prone to develop a panic disorder if:

  • Your twin has it
  • A first-degree relative (parent, sibling) has it

While the genetics versus environmental factors debate on the actual culprit of anxiety still continues, it is believed that genes do modify the emotional responses in a manner that may lead to anxiety. Other factors determining anxiety development in two people with a similar set of genes are environmental risk factors and individual experiences.

What Else Can Cause Anxiety?

Is anxiety hereditary? Yeah, it can be hereditary. While the role of genetics is already discussed, what are the other factors that can contribute to the development of anxiety and related disorders? Well these factors include:

1. Brain Chemistry

Anxiety disorders have also been found to have an association with abnormal nerve pathways responsible for connecting brain regions involved in emotion and cognition. The nerve cell connections are also dependent on neurotransmitters that transmit information between cells. If these pathways and connections don’t work smoothly, mood swing and anxiety may occur. Anxiolytics and other medicines work on these chemicals to manage anxiety disorders.

2. Environmental Factors

There are a number of environmental factors that may be a cause of generalized anxiety disorder. These include:

  • Trauma
  • Death of a loved one
  • Abuse
  • Divorce
  • Stressful events like changing job or school
  • Use of or withdrawal from addictive substances like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine

How to Deal With Anxiety Effectively

Now that we get a positive answer to "Is anxiety hereditary?" some may start to worry once they have anxiety, they will have it forever. Don't worry, anxiety can be managed. Well, treatment of anxiety disorders works best by trial and error method, which may at times require single or a combination of two or more different types of therapies. The two main types are psychotherapy and medications.

1. Psychotherapy

Also called talk therapy or psychological counseling, it is an effective therapy for assuaging anxiety and its symptoms. The therapy involves interacting with a therapist to get you back on the track. The cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, is a short-term and an effective way of teaching specific skills that get you used to activities you were unable to carry on with due to anxiety.

2. Medicines

Medications are another treatment option to tackle anxiety, the benefits and side effects of which will be explained to you by the doctor. These medicines are often prescribed when anxiety is high enough to interfere with daily normal functioning.

  • Benzodiazepines, minor tranquilizers or sedative-hypnotics, are often used to treat anxiety disorders and assuage intense feelings. The drugs work by reducing physical anxiety symptoms like restlessness and muscle tension. Common benzodiazepines that are given to patients are Xanax, Librium, Valium and Ativan. But only use them in short-term because they can be addictive, sedating and interfering with memory and attention. Besides, they have added effects if combined with other drugs and can be dangerous if combined with alcohol.
  • Antidepressants include first-line treatment medicines like SSRI and SNRI classes. While they may take a few weeks to get fully effective, they are a better option when it comes to long-term treatment. Medicines specifically included in this type are Paxil, Effexor, Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft, Cymbalta, etc.

3. Healthy Lifestyle

You get a big yes to the question "Is anxiety hereditary?" but you also should know that anxious feeling can be managed. Here one should not underestimate the potential of lifestyle changes and dietary modifications in assuaging the problem as well. Some changes that may be helpful in getting rid of anxiety are listed below:

  • Physical activity is one of the most effective stress busters, which if done in routine can not only improve health but mood as well. Start slowly and then gradually increase the duration and see its wonders.
  • Quit alcohol and other sedatives! And you’ll see how much better you get.
  • Quit smoking and reduce caffeine intake because both nicotine and caffeine worsen anxiety.
  • Relaxation techniques can ease anxiety and should be given a shot. These include yoga, meditation and visualization techniques.
  • Sleep sound. Make it a priority. Make sure you sleep well and enough because that has a considerable effect on soothing your anxious condition.
  • Eat well and healthyFocus more on nuts, whole grain, fruits and veggies and less on junk.
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