Are you a parent with anxiety disorder? Try these tips to avoid passing on anxiety to your child.
Anxiety is part of the human experience and at times the word “anxiety” is watered down. People worry about a wide variety of things. Finances, job stability, relationships, child rearing, health, and safety come to mind as common worries on a day-to-day basis. Not all worrying, however, qualifies as anxiety.
Anxiety disorders include disorders that share features of excessive fear and anxiety that negatively impact functioning. For kids, this might mean that anxiety makes it difficult to get to school each day, make and maintain friends, sleep at night, or focus in the classroom. For adults, work, romantic relationships, friendships, finances, and physical health can suffer. Anxiety manifests in many ways (physical, emotional, and behavioral), and there are several disorders that fall under “anxiety disorders.”
One question that parents often ask is, “Can my anxiety cause anxiety for my kids?” Research shows that anxiety does have a genetic component. Genetic studies show a heritability rate of 30-67% for anxiety disorders. If a first degree relative of a child has an anxiety disorder, there is a chance that the child will also develop anxiety over the course of his or her lifetime.
The other question to consider is this: Can anxiety be catching? As it turns out, anxiety isn’t simply a matter of genetics. Parents and kids can affect each others’ anxious behaviors just by living together. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry looked at almost 900 families with adult twins who have children to determine the effect of environmental influence on anxiety. Results showed strong support of environmental transmission of anxiety from parent to child, independent of genetics. In essence, this study showed that anxious behaviors can be learned and that a child’s anxious behavior can also increase the anxious behavior of the parent. The good news from this research is that parents can take an active role in reducing their child’s anxiety by changing their own behavior and modeling effective coping skills.
Watch out for these potential anxious behaviors in your family…