Anxiety hereditary or learned?

Avatar for cupcakebabe
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-09-2011
Anxiety hereditary or learned?
Tue, 01-29-2013 - 2:57pm

Hi everyone,

I have a 12yo son who is often very anxious. As I'm an anxious person, I wonder if he was born anxious or if it's learned from me. His father, my husband, is not anxious in any sense of the word. 

And along the same thought, do you think that we learn anxiety from experiences or is it an ingrained issue, maybe that those of us who suffer with it are more apt to 'set free' with an action (such as PTSD or other situation)?

I don't want to medicate him at this point (the anxiety is not affecting his life in the same sense it does mine), but definitely want to help him when it's at its worse.


iVillage Member
Registered: 05-08-2006
Tue, 01-29-2013 - 4:36pm
I think it is both. People by nature might be anxious, but if they are helped to learn good coping skills, can better manage it. People who are not naturally anxious can be made that way if they are given signals/messages that a lot of life is dangerous or to be feared. My mother worried a lot...I used to try to anticipate what might worry her to prevent it but some of what she worried about was so far from what I could imagine that I realized I couldn't always help her. But she also modeled some good behaviors. She had a fear that we would be separated in a she always provided us with instructions on what to do if that happened. I will give someone that type of instruction, but as a way to be prepared not from anxiety. She also had a fear of leaving the iron plugged in, the stove on, the coffee pot on. We seldom went anywhere without going home to check this. I learned to always check these things and to say as we went out the door - stove's off, iron's unplugged, coffeepot's unplugged. If I find myself worrying about these things, I say 'I am not my mother' and move on. I have my own fears that I know are not based in reality...I am afraid that if I go out to dinner with someone, I won't be able to think of anything to say...this has never happened...more like the opposite...but I still always have the fear....I think you might want to both try to manage how much of your anxiety you share with your son and share your coping skills with him. And if you do not have good coping skills, perhaps seek out ome one who can help both of you build them. Best wishes.
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-2011
Thu, 01-31-2013 - 2:51pm

I think it could be both, or neither. Some kids develop anxiety comorbid with another disorder or entirely on its own with no real inspiration or modeling from someone else. I looked at anti-anxiety medications for my son, but found that many of them had scary side-effects so we have opted to work on his anxiety in a therapeutic sense instead; there is also some good online help and a workbook on Amazon that helps address some issues. I do not have the title handy but if you are interested, I will look for it. (I have nothing to do with the book, just something I tried with my son.)

Community Leader
Registered: 10-22-2001
Sat, 02-09-2013 - 8:00pm

I have a ds with severe anxiety to.

My dd has it to.

My ds thought he might have given it to me...;)...

I think it might be one or the other or both.

Sometimes PTSD plays a factor to.

Avatar for ubergeek
Community Leader
Registered: 09-23-2010
Tue, 02-12-2013 - 3:49pm

Hi there,

I have an eleven year old who is anxious. I think for him, he's born with it and it's definitely not from me (though I can definitely make anyone anxious with my anxiety!). 

I've not medicated but we've worked on the issues that cause the anxiety (such as clouds ≠ thunder).  Maybe take that route? 

Avatar for nawleansdarlin
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-27-1999
Thu, 02-14-2013 - 10:50pm

My son was diagnoised with Severe Anxiety at the age of 6.  His anxiety was so severe he couldn't sit down, eat or even sleep.  He had to be medicated and was for many many years.  Now he is 20 and has been off meds for about 12 years.  He has learned how to deal with his anxiety in other ways from the many therapists we have been to, over the years.  He still has days. 

I on the other hand will never be off my medications.  I stop taking prozac and I want to die and that now brings on anxiety attacks. 

I think some of it is heredity.  I think some of it is because for whatever reason we failed to learn how to deal with our emotions.  Whether that is an actual physical thing that caused it or it is a mental thing that caused it, it just happened and here we are. 

I have found that family therapy with my son was the most helpful to us all.  I got to hear how he was feeling about everything from what triggered his anxiety to how I reacted to it.  This helped me to modify my behavior and in turn help him. 

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