Does Anxiety Run in Families?

Chronic anxiety is a common problem around the world, affecting at least a quarter of the population in the North America and Europe. Scientists have been working hard to understand this debilitating condition, and new research indicates that anxiety does indeed run in families.

Anxiety disorder is complicated and there are a number of factors that may be at play, including environment, traumatic events, poverty, poor health, substance abuse within the family and lack of a healthy support system. However, it seems that people with a genetic predisposition are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, especially if any of those other factors are present.

If you have a parent or sibling with chronic anxiety, you are two to three times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, especially if anxiety reared its ugly head before you reached the age of 20. In other words, if you have an anxiety disorder, genetics get about one-third of the blame.

Anxiety and the Brain

Researchers believe that certain brain chemicals send signals down specific pathways in the brain, and that imbalances in the chemicals cause disturbances that trigger anxiety disorders.

Scientists also think they have targeted specific genes linked to chronic anxiety. Although there is still much to learn, new information may help identify genes that regulate anxiety, resulting in better treatment methods and more effective anti-anxiety medications.

It’s Not Your Fault

The most important thing to realize is that while chronic anxiety can be debilitating, it isn’t a weakness and it isn’t your fault.


Treatment is no different if your anxiety is hereditary or if it’s caused by other factors. Treatment, usually in the form of medication, counseling, or a combination of the two is highly effective for chronic anxiety.

It isn’t unusual for people with chronic anxiety to sooth their constant worry and fear with drugs or alcohol, which only works for a short time. Anxiety is compounded when substance abuse and addiction are involved.

If you find that you rely on drugs and alcohol too frequently, get help as soon as possible. Don’t assume the problem will resolve itself, because unfortunately, that never happens. Don’t hesitate to seek drug and alcohol treatment or rehab as soon as possible.

Anxiety, even when compounded with addiction, is treatable.

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