Everybody experiences nerves once in a while — it’s normal to feel nervous when starting a new job, or to start sweating before making a public speech. However, if those nerves escalate to an overwhelming fear that prevents you from completing basic tasks, then you might have an anxiety disorder, prompting the question: is anxiety genetic?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 40 million adults in the U.S. alone suffer from an anxiety condition.
While some of these people developed the condition after a traumatic event, others have no discernible reason for their anxiety, Here’s a closer look at anxiety, the connection between anxiety and genetics and how gene testing can help.
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What Is Anxiety?
- Generalized anxiety disorder: Chronic worrying about everyday life (which interferes with the ability to complete daily tasks)
- Social anxiety disorder: Fear over socialization (which inhibits the ability to develop relationships)
- Panic disorder: Repetitive, serious and often random panic attacks (which may come with chest pain, heart palpitations and stomach-aches)
While each disorder differs in terms of triggers, they all share something in common: each one causes intense, irrational fear. They also have similar physical and mental symptoms, including restlessness, irritability, sweating, headaches and increased heart rate.
Now that you understand what anxiety entails, you may be wondering: what causes it? Does it develop over time, or is anxiety genetic?
Is Anxiety Disorder Hereditary or Learned?
The question of “is anxiety genetic?” has interested researchers for years, leading to several studies on the subject. A 2002 study found a connection between phobias and genes, indicating that anxiety is indeed genetic. These findings were reinforced in a 2015 study, during which researchers found a connection between mental disorders and twins. In addition to genetics, causes of anxiety include:
- Environmental factors
- Medical conditions
In some cases, intense phobias and anxiety may arise due to a traumatic life experience or a nerve-inducing environment. Some medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders, may also cause anxiety. No matter the reason behind the anxiety, the result is usually the same: an intense fear that interferes with day-to-day life.
In addition to assisting in both the medical and police industries, genetic testing has many other uses. Quite a few companies have sprung up that use this new science to help people find their ancestry. Paternity tests are also fairly common and easy to get because of genetic testing.
Another niche field that has recently been opened up by genetic testing is pharmacogenetics. This is the study of how your specific genes can potentially impact your body’s response to medications. Because of this field, it is now possible to receive genetic testing for depression meds.
What Is The Treatment For Anxiety?
Now that we’ve answered the question of, “Can anxiety be genetic?,” it’s time to move onto the next topic: treatment. Whether the anxiety is caused by previous trauma or genetics, most patients are treated with a combination of therapy and medication. Doctors typically prescribe one of the following:
Antidepressants: These reduce anxiety by affecting neurotransmitters.
Benzodiazepines: These sedatives affect certain neurotransmitters to relax the body and mind.
Beta-blockers: Also used to treat heart conditions, beta-blockers are designed for short-term relief.
Each one of these medications offers tons of different brand-name drugs to choose from, which can make treatment seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there’s a solution: anxiety gene testing.
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What Is Genetic Testing For Anxiety?
Every human inherits over 20,000 genes from their parents. This genetic material, which is found in the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), influences everything from our appearance to our health — including whether or not we have anxiety.
Just like how genes impact our mental health, they can determine the best course of treatment. Genes are responsible for building proteins called enzymes, which break down (or metabolize) medications. If your enzymes metabolize too slowly, the drug is left in your system and causes side effects — conversely, if they work too quickly, the drug will be ineffective.
Genetic testing for anxiety goes beyond the question of “is anxiety hereditary” by examining genes and pinpointing variations that may affect the way you respond to certain treatments. The process itself is relatively simple — the subject just needs to provide a DNA sample, either through blood, saliva or a cheek swab. Some benefits of genetic testing include:
- Reducing the need for “trial and error”
- Reducing the risk of adverse effects
- Helping prepare for the future
Thanks to genetic testing, there’s no need to put your body through “trial and error” and experiment with different medications. Instead, you can expedite the process by eliminating medications that are expected to react poorly with your enzymes. Even if you don’t need medication yet, genetic testing can help you stay prepared for future treatment options.
Do I Need An Anxiety Gene Test?
While there’s no harm in having your genes tested, some individuals may benefit from testing more than others. You should consider getting tested if any of the following applies to you:
- You notice anxiety symptoms: If you experience intense panic or chronic fear, you might want to check to see if you are predisposed to anxiety.
- You have a family history of anxiety: Having relatives with anxiety disorders increases your likelihood of having one.
- You have an underlying medical condition: If you have a health condition in addition to anxiety, you’ll want to ensure that your anxiety medication does not interfere with the condition.
- You have a family history of adverse effects: If you or your relatives have a history of reacting negatively to medications, you should consider gene testing.
Ultimately, anxiety gene testing can benefit anyone who is looking to confirm a diagnosis or is trying to find a suitable medication.
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For years, researchers have pondered the question: is anxiety inherited? Once they discovered the link between genetics and anxiety, they rushed to find ways to treat it. At ClarityX, we offer a comprehensive mental wellness test that narrows down the different antidepressants and psychiatric medications available and helps you find one that fits your needs. Find the best treatment for your body by getting an anxiety gene test today!
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Education & Resources
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