Is Anxiety Hereditary

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While it appears that there are a variety of factors that can increase your risk of developing anxiety disorders, research has suggested that anxiety is partly hereditary as well. Genetics can certainly have a role to play in your chances of suffering from anxiety or depression, but they’re not the only cause.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the genetic factors that have to do with anxiety, if there are any at all. So, if you want to know if you are at a greater risk of developing an anxiety disorder because of your genes, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for more information about anxiety.

Anxiety and Its Causes

Scientists are not completely certain as to what the cause of anxiety disorders is. Each disorder comes with its own risks, though the National Institute of Mental Health has found that you are more susceptible to developing an anxiety disorder if:

  • You have suffer from a physical condition that is connected to anxiety disorders, such as thyroid problems
  • You have had traumatic life experiences
  • Your close relatives suffer from anxiety disorders or another mental illness

Essentially, anxiety disorders can be caused by both environmental factors as well as your genetics.

Decades of years of research have delved into the hereditary links to anxiety. For instance, research conducted in 2002 found that specific chromosomal characteristics are connected to panic disorders and phobia.

Furthermore, a study performed in 2015 studied mental illnesses in twins and discovered that the gene RBFOX1 can make an individual more susceptible to developing a general anxiety disorder. One review in the following year showed that panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, and social anxiety are all connected to certain genes.

Most researchers agree that anxiety can be genetic, though it is possible for anxiety to be affected by environmental influencers. In layman’s terms, it is possible for you to develop anxiety without the condition being common in your family. There is much that we don’t understand about the connection between anxiety disorders and genes, however, so additional research is definitely necessary.

How Anxiety is Diagnosed

In order to receive an anxiety disorder diagnosis, you will need to talk with a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or a professional licensed counselor (LPC). When you talk to these professionals, you will discuss your feelings, thoughts, and behavior.

They will also talk to you about your symptoms and compare those symptoms to the ones that are specified in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

teenager sitting on the floor keeps hand to cheek looking thoughtfully and hopeless

The Symptoms

Anxiety on its own is not considered a mental illness and instead is a feeling, though there are a number of conditions that are classified as anxiety disorders. 

  • Panic disorder – Frequent, recurring panic attacks
  • Generalized anxiety disorder – Chronic anxiety surrounding everyday, common situations and experiences
  • Social anxiety disorder – A serious fear or anxiety regarding social situations
  • Phobias – Intense fear of specific thing or situation
  • Separation anxiety disorder – A debilitating fear of losing those you love or the people in your life who are most important to you

The American Psychiatric Association also recognizes more mental health issues that, though not actually considered anxiety disorders, have anxiety as one of their symptoms, like:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Acute stress disorder

Anxiety is described as a feeling of apprehension or worry. Though everyone certainly experiences anxious feelings every now and then, some people suffer from anxiety disorders, which usually involve debilitating, intense anxiety. This anxiety can even be for things that don’t generally cause anxiety.

Warning Signs

It is important to know the symptoms of anxiety, especially if anxiety runs in your family. If you know what to look out for, you will be able to spot these conditions early on and get help sooner.

Like we mentioned earlier, everyone feels nervous and worried now and then. It’s a completely normal human experience, but when it becomes a condition, it’s more than that. Anxiety disorders have many symptoms similar to depression.

You might experience a loss of energy and lack of focus with both conditions. What’s more, people with an anxiety disorder commonly become very panicked, are nervous, have an increased heart rate, hyperventilation, lack of sleep, have stomach problems, or notice that they avoid things that cause them to be anxious.

Treatments for Anxiety

There are a number of treatments that can help reduce your anxious feelings. Some of the most effective options include the following.

Therapy

Therapy is by far one of the most effective treatments for people who suffer from anxiety disorders. This treatment can educate you about useful insights and tools, help you gain understanding of the influence of the experiences that  you might have had, and help you explore your feelings.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a very popular anxiety treatment, and involves speaking with your psychiatrist or psychologist about your experience. With CBT, you will learn to identify and change your behavioral and thought patterns.

The American Psychological Association states that around 75% of individuals who attend therapy find it in some way beneficial to their mental health.

Lifestyle

There are certain changes that you can make to your lifestyle to help you manage your anxiety. These include:

  • Avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs
  • Getting more exercise
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Reducing your caffeine intake
  • Relaxation practices, like meditation and yoga
  • Getting good amounts of sleep
  • Keeping a journal in which you can express and understand your feelings
  • Managing your time to reduce stress
  • Socializing and talking with supportive people about your anxiety

Medication

You can also take medication to help treat your anxiety. Your doctor will prescribe medicines to you. There are a number of kinds of anxiety medications, each with its own drawbacks and benefits. However, it’s important to note that medication is not always necessary to treat anxiety, though it can certainly help alleviate your symptoms.

Be sure to consult with your therapist or doctor if you feel that your anxiety is unmanageable, or if it prevents you from functioning in your day to day life.

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