Anxiety: Symptoms and Causes
Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
Though we all go through anxiety multiple times in our lives, experiencing persistent and overwhelming anxiety can be debilitating.
When anxiety interferes with your daily activities or causes distress, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are mental health disorders, and their cause may be complicated.
Some possible causes:
- Environmental factors: Stressors like work pressure, personal or family issues, and relationship trouble.
- Genetics: Individuals with family members suffering from an anxiety disorder.
- Medical factors: Certain diseases, medication, or stress.
- Substance abuse and withdrawal: Withdrawal from the use of illicit drugs.
- Brain chemicals: Abnormal neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) or hormonal levels in the blood.
What Are The Common Symptoms Of Anxiety?
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Difficulty in falling asleep
- Increased irritability
Is Anxiety Inherited?
Studies have shown that anxiety runs in families.
Children of parents with anxiety disorder are seven times more likely to develop the condition.
Though genetics is only 30-40% responsible for anxiety disorder, a recent study on twins showed a direct transmission of anxiety genes from the parent to the child.
Studies also show that over-controlling and anxious parental behavior can promote anxiety in children.
Though genetics play an essential role in the transmission of anxiety in families, environment and parenting also have a significant impact.
A Sneak-Peek Into Our Gene Health Report
Anxiety Genes Are Inherited: The Anxious Household
A new study found that brain function resulting from anxiety and depression is inherited.
In a research study, young rhesus monkeys were exposed to mildly stressful situations.
It was found that monkeys stopped moving or vocalizing while their stress hormones shot up.
Shy human children show similar behavior.
In another study, researchers found that nearly 30% variation in early anxiety has been credited to family history.
Further, children with highly anxious temperaments are at a 50% risk of developing mental health disorders later in life.
Researchers have found three brain regions involved in anxiety that were heritable. These include:
- Orbitofrontal cortex: The most evolutionarily advanced part of the brain
- Amygdala: An almond-shaped region in the middle portion of the brain involved in fear and emotion
- Limbic system: located the at base of the brain stem
It is, therefore, believed that the overactivity of the brain that causes anxiety is inherited from our parents.
Breaking the Family Cycle of Anxiety
Parents with anxiety disorders may have no control over the genes they transfer to their children.
However, since environmental and lifestyle factors play a role in anxiety, early intervention can help prevent anxiety in an individual.
Here are some effective ways to break the cycle of anxiety:
Learn to recognize anxiety in your child
As parents with anxiety, it is important to recognize signs of anxiety and nervousness in your child.
You must also teach your child to identify thoughts that scare them.
Apart from recognizing the fear, children must be taught how to deal with their scary or fearful thoughts.
Share your stories
To alleviate fear and anxiety in children, parents must create a safe and trusted environment.
An effective way to do so is to share your stories of vulnerability, anxiety, or depression. Your child may find comfort in knowing that you understand these feelings.
Create smooth communication channels
An essential pillar of support when a child is going through anxiety is knowing whom to speak to when they feel low or anxious.
Keeping communication channels open with your child and initiating conversations about how they are feeling or how their day went can help reduce their anxiety.
Build their confidence
As parents, fixing a problem for your child is an instinct. However, doing so steals from them an opportunity to use and practice their competence.
An excellent way to alleviate your child’s anxiety is to build their confidence by guiding them in problem-solving.
A genetic test can help understand the risk for anxiety and provide personalized recommendations to help prevent it.