2 - Is Anxiety Inherited,
Is It Genetic?

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Learning how your inherited tendencies affect your responses to everyday life is the key to overcoming anxiety. If you have difficulties with anxiety I'll bet that you have a close relative who has problems with worry, anxiety or phobias too.

family group showing heredity

Many clients I have seen over the years have told me that their partners are the exact opposite to them and are very laid back. They then tell me that their children have followed either the calm, laid back parent or the anxious one. This depended on the type of arousal system passed down genetically to these children by their parents. It wasn't influenced by the way their parents behaved.

If a child with a quick-acting system lived only with laid-back parents they would most probably still have difficulties with anxiety-related issues. Likewise a child who inherited a very slow-responding system would be extremely unlikely to develop anxiety difficulties even if brought up by two parents who worried constantly.

At one end of the scale are people who are born with very slow reacting arousal systems. Such people are often described as 'laid back'. 

At the other end of the scale are those people who have been given in their genes an arousal system which is almost too responsive and zooms up too quickly. This is the case with people who have anxiety-related problems.

It's the same in the animal world. Anyone who has kept horses will know that some spook at anything whereas others appear relatively unconcerned. With horses, however, it is possible to train a nervous horse to react in a more laid-back manner. 

If you want to train horses to be ridden you don't want them to spook and try to bolt every time they see a bit of rubbish, such as a plastic bag, blowing in the wind. Most foals will instinctively react with anxiety at the sight of a flapping carrier bag, although some are more afraid than others. Many horse breeders spend time training their foals not to be afraid of such things.

Police horses are trained not to react instinctively to having missiles thrown at them, or things set on fire close by. Training to overcome inherited fear tendencies is possible for both humans and animals.

So, generally speaking, 

if someone has problems with anxiety it is almost always because they were born with a quick-acting arousal system.

How the speed of the system affects anxiety will be made clear when its relationship to the survival instinct is explained.

In the end we are each stuck with the system we are born with. That does not, however, mean we are doomed to be prisoners of it. Even if you are born with a quick-acting arousal system, once you understand it you can learn to make it work for you rather than against you.

If a horse can be taught to overcome its natural instinct to run when it sees a plastic carrier bag flapping in the wind, surely a person can overcome their anxiety triggers in the same way.

It may not be your fault that you have anxiety tendencies but choosing not to do anything constructive about it is down to you and nobody else. That is the key to overcoming anxiety. 

The next step is to understand how the survival instinct works...

  1. Overcoming Anxiety
  2. Anxiety Causes
  3. Inherited Traits