Can You Blame Your Parents For Your Anxiety?

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  • A new study has revealed anxiety could be hereditary - meaning that if your parents suffer from it, you might be more susceptible too

    As a general rule, whenever anything goes wrong, it’s generally helpful to blame your parents for it. Bad hair day? That’s your dad’s genes at fault. Missed the bus? It’s not your problem that your great aunt was chronically late. Accidentally fallen out with your friend? Well, your mum has already alienated three quarters of her book club, so this was totally inevitable.

    But now a brand new study suggests that there’s one more (legitimate) thing that you can attribute to genetics: Anxiety.

    By studying 600 monkeys (who we can only assume had a ball of a time), a team of researchers from the Department of Psychiatry and the Health Emotions Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madisondiscovered that an over-active brain circuit – which is generally associated with anxiety disorders – is hereditary. Meaning – in non science-speak – that if your dad is likely to overthink himself into a bit of a state, you’re more likely to do that too.

    The researchers introduced the monkeys – who were members of different monkey families, and of different monkey generations – to various situations that could stress them out. Scenarios such as meeting a new monkey who they’d never seen before (who doesn’t freak out at that?), brought out similar responses from certain family members, meaning that the scientists were able to determine which bits of the brain are responsible for anxiety – and how they varied from family to family.

    ‘Over-activity of three brain regions are inherited [and] directly linked to the later life risk to develop anxiety and depression,’ said Dr Kalin, who coordinated the study. ‘This is a big step in understanding the neural underpinnings of inherited anxiety and begins to give us more selective targets for treatment.’

    ‘Basically, we think that to a certain extent, anxiety can provide an evolutionary advantage because it helps an individual recognise and avoid danger, but when the circuits are over-active, it becomes a problem and can result in anxiety and depressive disorders.’

    Which makes sense. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to adopt a baby chimp or two.*


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