Breaking the Family Anxiety Cycle and Transmission
If anxiety is affecting a family member, you can’t just ignore it. Living with a family member who has anxiety is as much your problem as it is theirs - because it can affect the rest of the family. If anxiety “runs in your blood”- having grandparents or parents who lived with anxiety in their lifetime - you would want to know how you can break that cycle. If anxiety is caused by the environment, you would also want to prevent its transmission to the other members of the family. Either way, a professional therapist can assist you.
The Anxiety Cycle: Genetic Predisposition and Environment
If you were raised by an anxious mother, you are more vulnerable to anxiety. If you are an anxious mom now, your child may likely be vulnerable to anxiety as well. There are two possible influences for this that you would want to understand – the genes and the environment.
If anxiety runs in the family, the members could be genetically predisposed to anxiety. That predisposition can be expressed, suppressed or modified, depending on the environment. Being raised by an anxious mom would create that kind of “anxious environment,” making the child more prone to developing anxiety. According to Asst. Prof. Amy Przeworski, PhD, of the Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, “Individuals inherit a predisposition to being an anxious person, [and] about 30 to 40 percent of the variability is related to genetic factors.”
On the other hand, Debbie Pincus of the Calm Parent Program says “transmission” is actually a case of “learned behavior,” or the child learns the behavior as they observe it from people surrounding them.
Both these ideas underscore the roles that genome and environment play in the passing on and development of anxiety in a person.
How Anxiety Can Be “Transmitted” From the Environment
Even when the parents are not genetically predisposed, anxiety may still affect the family. Considering how stressful modern life and parenting is, anxiety may also enter your home through the stressed parents or the children.
For instance, if Dad comes home stressed, he may take out his frustration on Mom, who may also release her anxiety on the children. If there is a genetic predisposition in any one of the parents, the risk for anxiety can be higher on the predisposed parent and the children. While it can potentially disturb everyone, it may settle in one – the “anxiety sponge” in the family - which is usually a child.
Children are more vulnerable because they don’t have the abilities to resolve their issues. Acting out, they may be thought of as “the problem.” It is possible that they are just absorbing (just like a sponge) experiences that make them anxious. It is important to remember that parental control is the main attribute of anxiety in children. In the case of a genetically predisposed child, the risk can be higher.
Breaking the Cycle/Transmission
If shouting matches are common when members gather or everyone is stressed because of defiance exhibited by more than one family member, anxiety can be running in your family; check your family tree. If your family is genetically predisposed, that makes you and your family more vulnerable to anxiety. The genetic potential can be expressed when it grips more than one member in your family as it can promote an “anxious atmosphere” in your home.
Breaking the anxiety cycle in your family is critical, but it may not be that easy, particularly when the interest is coming from just one member. Find assistance from Carolina Counseling Services in Fuquay-Varina, NC. The therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services can suggest the right therapy for the family to help resolve your family anxiety. The family dynamics that can be causing the expression of a genetic predisposition or the stress that is being transmitted to the other members of the family can be better addressed with the help of a professional therapist.
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