Is Anxiety Genetic?

Feeling anxious at times is something everyone can relate to. Some anxiety is a normal part of the human experience. It can even be beneficial, helping us to increase awareness and prepare for potentially dangerous or important situations.

But for many, anxiety can become excessive and even debilitating, being way out of proportion to the trigger that is causing it. For the 40 million American adults who struggle with an actual anxiety disorder, help is available (via Anxiety and Depression Association of America). But how does an anxiety disorder develop in the first place?

Genetics definitely seem to play some part in anxiety disorders. The idea that anxiety may be inherited is supported by studies done on twins. Identical twins, who share the same genetic makeup, are significantly more likely to both have anxiety than fraternal twins, who share only half of the same genes (via WebMD). This suggests that genetics play an important role in anxiety. But even so, they are only one part of a much larger picture.

Effective treatments are available for anxiety disorders

Psychologist Amy Przeworski, an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University, told Everyday Health, "Individuals inherit a predisposition to being an anxious person, [and] about 30 to 40 percent of the variability is related to genetic factors." Scientists are still trying to pinpoint exactly which gene or, more likely, mix of genes, may predispose someone to develop an anxiety disorder.

It's important to note that, even if someone has a genetic predisposition to developing anxiety, that doesn't mean that they necessarily will develop a disorder. Environmental and lifestyle factors also play a major role in whether anxiety genes are 'activated,' and they are strong enough to cause even someone with no genetic predisposition to develop anxiety (via GoodRx Health). Anxiety is a complex condition that can't be easily explained by either genetics or environment alone.

The good news is that, regardless of the cause, there are a variety of effective treatments available for anxiety disorders. Lifestyle changes, therapy, and certain medications can all help. If you struggle with anxiety, talk to your doctor about getting help for this very common condition.