Some individuals may be more prone to anxiety disorders due to their genetics but anxiety is not always hereditary.
However studies have shown those with certain genes have a higher risk of anxiety.
Genes are not a definitive indicator of anxiety, but they do indicate the potential for an anxiety disorder.
A study performed by scientists in the United States and Germany shows that some individuals carry a variation on the gene that is responsible for regulating the neurotransmitter dopamine. The study involved testing the startle reflex using a series of unpleasant images. Those with the gene variation startled far easier.
The scientists stated having the variation did not mean for certain an individual would have anxiety. Based on the gene alone, nearly half of all people could be prone to anxiety disorders. Factors such as an individual’s environment and heredity also determine a person’s risk of experiencing anxiety.
The National Institute of Mental Health sponsored a study on anxiety disorders and genetics. The studies found that genetics do play at least some role in whether a person has an anxiety disorder. The studies also shown why some individuals are more prone to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a traumatic event while others are not.
Scientists discovered the hippocampus in an individual’s brain is usually smaller in those who experience military combat or were victims of child abuse. They believe the smaller size does play a part in why the individual has flashbacks and other issues commonly related to PTSD. They are still not certain the exact role the size plays.
Heredity does play a major role in some anxiety disorders. Those diagnosed with panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder often have close relatives with the same mental illness. This does not mean for certan an individual is guaranteed to have anxiety issues if they have relatives with a disorder.
Around half of all patients diagnosed with panic disorder also have relatives who have been diagnosed. Generalized anxiety disorder is slightly less hereditary with only 40% of patients having relatives with the same diagnosis. Individuals with relatives who have been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder have been shown to be nine times more likely to be diagnosed with OCD during their lifetime.
Scientists have discovered many individuals with mental health issues in their family have differences in the genes in that regulate the brain’s neurotransmitters. The way the brain regulates glutamate and serotonin may be different for those with a family history of anxiety disorders.
More Than Heredity…
Heredity is only part of the reason a person develops an anxiety disorder. Environmental factors such as work stress or a traumatic experience can cause someone with no family history to development a disorder. Individuals should pay close attention to their reactions to stress and seek professional help if they believe they have anxiety issues regardless of their family history.