Anxious thoughts are inevitable, in life. But having anxious thoughts and anxiety disorders are two different things, the latter being a serious issue that may or not require treatments. It’s worrying because an anxiety disorder when left untreated can manifest physically. Symptoms like shaking, raging, nausea and palpitations are common with patients. Even today, the specific causes of anxiety are still unknown. Some researchers think it can be inherited. Which begs us to ask, is anxiety really hereditary?
According to a review published in the Journal Psychopharmacology, there more than eight million cases of anxiety in the UK in 2010. (The overall UK population is estimated to be 66 million, according to the Office for National Statistics.) Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects up to five percent of the UK population. Other conditions that fall into the anxiety bracket are a panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and phobias.
But a variety of factors go into play for the development of anxiety. This could include an imbalance of mood-regulating chemicals, overactivity in certain areas of the brain, traumatic experiences, and genes inherited from parents. According to the NHS, a person can be five times more likely to develop the disorder if they have a close relative with the condition. There also appears to be a familial link with OCD development.
"Genetic factors are probably important in the personality dimension of anxiety-proneness (sometimes called 'neuroticism') which places people at higher risk of various anxiety disorders," says David Baldwin, professor of psychiatry and head of mental health at the University of Southampton's faculty of medicine. "This may explain why a family might have members with different conditions such as panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder."
But Baldwin, who is also a clinical advisor for the Anxiety UK charity, adds that other causes of anxiety in later life "such as adverse experiences in childhood and adolescence" are also important. "In most patients, a range of familial, developmental, and environmental factors have contributed to anxiety," he concludes. Experts hope to find genetic causes and to use these causes to develop a more effective treatment.
How long that will take exactly is still unclear.