Is Anxiety Genetic?

When my two-year-old daughter Lucia Antonia has a tantrum, she curls her fist, her cheeks turn bright red, and she lets out a heart-stopping scream. This worries me.

Her external reaction is the manifestation of how I often feel internally, thanks to my anxiety-related panic attacks; so terrified of not having control over certain things that I just lose it. I worry my daughter is picking up on my nervous, anxious energy and will grow up to be like me in this way. If that’s the case, does this mean anxiety is genetic? Could she have inherited my anxiety?

“Mental health issues do track in families,” says Marra Ackerman, M.D., clinical associate professor, department of psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “However, family history is only one predictor of the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.” The exact level of inheritable risk is difficult to measure because of the innumerable compounding factors within any parent-child relationship. For example, experts have found that what’s called “insecure attachment” can develop when caregivers are not consistently available and responsive to meet a child’s basic needs — the most obvious cases are during abuse or neglect, explains Dr. Ackerman. “These children are at highest risk to develop anxiety disorders and struggles with interpersonal relationships.”

Excerpted from Shape

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