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Is Anxiety Genetic?

Why do some people struggle with severe anxiety, while others in similar circumstances never develop any symptoms whatsoever? Is anxiety genetic, is it caused by external factors, or does it result from a combination of influences?

If you or a loved one is suffering from anxiety, our anxiety treatment in Atlanta can help. Call us now at 707-202-1272 or verify your insurance now.

What Is Anxiety?

Before we address the question, is anxiety genetic, we should take a moment to discuss what, exactly, we are referring to when we discuss anxiety in a mental health context.

In casual conversations, anxiety is often used as a synonym for nervousness. But among clinicians, this term has a different meaning.

From a mental health professional’s perspective, anxiety refers to a category of conditions that are characterized by excessive worry and overwhelming fear. Some anxiety disorders can also be sources of distressing physical symptoms.

In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the following conditions are included in the anxiety disorders section:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobia
  • Agoraphobia
  • Selective mutism
  • Panic disorder
  • Substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder

One of the main differentiators among many of these disorders is what prompts the onset of symptoms. For example, people who have separation anxiety disorder may experience disproportionate distress when not in the presence of a specific individual, while those who have social anxiety disorder may develop symptoms when meeting new people or being in a situation where they believe they will be judged negatively.

Is Anxiety Genetic?

It can be extremely difficult to identify a definitive sole cause for anxiety or any other mental health concern. Several factors can raise or lower a person’s risk for developing an anxiety disorder.

However, while genetics may not be the only reason why a person struggles with anxiety, they are absolutely a risk factor for these types of mental health conditions.

For example:

  • A June 2017 article in the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience reported that the heritability of generalized anxiety disorder is about 30%
  • A September 2002 article in the same journal reported that a variation on chromosome 15 is “probably a major genetic factor of susceptibility for panic and phobic disorders.”
  • In 2019, the journal NeuroImage: Clinical published a study that established an association between a specific genetic variation and agoraphobia.

Does this mean that researchers have categorically answered the question, “Is anxiety genetic?” No, it does not. What these findings do mean is that, as experts develop a greater understanding of the human genome, they are better able to identify genetic factors that may increase a person’s risk for various anxiety disorder.

You are not alone. You deserve to get help.

Peachtree Wellness is an industry leader in mental health treatment. Our team of top medical experts specialize in dual diagnosis treatment and are committed to ensuring that each patient is treated as an individual. Call us today, we’re available 24/7.

What Else Can Cause Anxiety?

In addition to genetics, the following can also influence a person’s likelihood for developing an anxiety disorder:

  • Exposure to overwhelming stress or pressure
  • History of untreated trauma
  • Certain personality traits
  • Some medications or other substances (including caffeine)
  • Developing certain other mental health disorders
  • Various medical conditions

Can I Manage Anxiety Symptoms on my Own?

Depending on the type and intensity of anxiety symptoms that you have been experiencing, you may be able to ease some of your suffering without professional intervention. Here are three examples of ways to manage your anxiety symptoms:

  • Meditate and practice mindfulness: Mindfulness and meditation can help you experience difficult emotions without reacting negatively. These practices encourage you to view events around you without judgement or criticism, and to deal with your own thoughts and feelings in the same manner. When you decide to act, you will do so intentionally instead of reflexively.
  • Keep a journal: Recording your daily activities and emotions forces you to consider them from a slightly detached perspective. As you look back on what you did and how you felt, you may begin to notice self-defeating patterns that you can adjust, which will hopefully help you develop a healthier mindset.
  • Stay active: Walking, running, riding a bike, and gardening are just a few of the many healthy activities that can help you deal with stress and reduce anxiety. When you find an activity that you enjoy, you will be more likely to incorporate it into your regular schedule. This can provide you with a productive outlet, so that you don’t resort to substance abuse or other self-defeating responses when you begin to feel anxious.

What If I Need Professional Help?

The stress-management and self-soothing techniques that we discussed in the previous section can be extremely beneficial for some people. But if the symptoms that you have been experiencing have become so severe that they have undermined your ability to live a productive and satisfying life, then professional care may be the ideal option for you.

Treatment for anxiety disorders often involves a combination of medication and therapy. However, the type of medication and the forms of therapy that work best can vary from one person to the next. This is why it is so important to find an anxiety treatment provider who will assess the full scope of your needs, then develop a customized plan just for you.

One of the first decisions your treatment provider will make is choosing which level or levels of care are most appropriate for you. Many people who receive professional care for anxiety take part in treatment at one or more of the following levels:

Within each of these programs, your care may include many elements, such as:

It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong path toward recovery from an anxiety disorder. What matters most is finding the types and levels of care that work best for you.

Find Anxiety Treatment in Atlanta

Peachtree Wellness Solutions offers individualized care and comprehensive support for adults whose lives have been disrupted by anxiety disorders and other mental health concerns. 

At our anxiety treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, you can work in close collaboration with a team of skilled and compassionate professionals. We understand that anxiety can affect different people in different ways, and we’re committed to providing a truly personalized experience for each patient who heals with us. With multiple levels of care and a customizable array of therapies and support services, we can develop the plan that will put you on the path toward a healthier and more hopeful future.

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.