Anxiety is the most common form of mental health distress in the world. Despite this prevalence, the general public may not know much about it. After all, anxiety is a normal and often helpful emotion. However, when it becomes chronic, it also becomes counterproductive. But why does this happen so often? Where do anxiety disorders start and… can they be inherited?

That last question is the focus of this post. When something is as widespread as anxiety, it’s important to know as much as possible about its origins. Such importance is critical for your treatment — particularly during therapy.

A Few Factors to Consider

  • Research on identical twins has given the impression that a genetic component exists for anxiety.
  • No single gene for anxiety has been found. With such a discovery, it is tricky to make a clear genetic connection from generation to generation.
  • More than genes get passed down. Tendencies, lifestyles, and more can be passed along in a family. This increases the predisposition of future generations to be susceptible to anxiety disorders.
  • Even so, you can be born into a high anxiety family and not struggle with this issue. Also, having low anxiety parents does not guarantee you will not deal with an anxiety disorder in your life.

We will probably know much more in the near future. For now, there appears to be a genetic connection, but the environmental factors are much easier to identify for now.

So, Does Anxiety Run in Families?

By re-wording the question, we can supply many more answers. Strictly speaking, when something is inherited, it has to do with DNA. But always running parallel to such “nature” is the factor of “nurture.” Family habits are often passed down — from eating habits to communication styles and beyond.

Children with parents who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder may have seven times the risk of developing such a disorder themselves. (It isn’t even always the same anxiety disorder.)

Through no fault of their own, anxious parents often create anxious offspring. It’s about such factors as:

  • Learned behaviors and reactions
  • Overprotectedness
  • Superstition
  • Obsession with sensational news headlines

and white image of woman who is stressed clenching her hands on her headThis cycle exists often without recognition. Anxiety can be so normalized within a household that the warring signs go unnoticed. However, therein lies the potential change.

Whether Nature or Nurture, You Can Derail the Anxiety Train

Psychological distress — e.g. trauma or anxiety — can be passed down for generations within a family. When immersed in such an insular environment, it can be challenging to identify a need for change. But all it takes is for one family member to break the pattern.

Take a good look around at your relatives. You can compare them to how other families behave. But it’s probably more helpful to familiarize yourself with the specifics of anxiety disorders. Once you know those signs and symptoms, things will begin to click. You’ll be able to recognize that what is accepted as normal within your family might actually be quite unhealthy.

The good news is that anxiety disorders can be addressed, treated, and managed. The moment one family member begins working with a therapist, it increases the odds of other family members also putting the puzzle pieces together.

Therapy Helps the Entire Family

A parent who commits to therapy is giving their children a gift. You suddenly question deeply embedded dynamics. You begin to understand what role you are playing in keeping cycles alive. This positions you to prevent new patterns from developing and taking hold.

Multi-generational anxiety, once exposed, loses so much of its power. Until we find an “anxiety gene,” this is the most important work anyone can do — to help themselves and to help everyone in their lives.

Anxiety therapy can help you take control back of your life. Reach out to me to get started.