Is anxiety disorder something we develop over the years, or is it hard-wired into our brains? According to a Jerome Kagan, a highly renowned behavioral scientist, there is good evidence suggesting that for some of us there are biological factors at play. In a famous study that is explained in detail here, the researcher followed a group of babies from the time their were born until their adult age.
With the aim of understanding the complex manifestations of human temperament, Kagan choose to study the reaction of babies to new things… smells, sights, all kinds of stimuli. A few of the hundreds of babies he analyzed showed a notable uneasiness around any unfamiliar settings, and the author postulated that such infants would be likely to develop inhibited temperament and chronic anxiousness throughout their life. Fifteen years later, while interview one of such particular babies (then a teenager), Kagan’s suspicions were confirmed – that some of us are just born with a predisposition to anxiety. Here’s a quote from the interview, where the interviewee claims:
“When I don’t quite know what to do and it’s really frustrating and I feel really uncomfortable, especially if other people around me know what they’re doing. I’m always thinking, Should I go here? Should I go there? Am I in someone’s way? … I worry about things like getting projects done… I think, Will I get it done? How am I going to do it? … If I’m going to be in a big crowd, it makes me nervous about what I’m going to do and say and what other people are going to do and say.”
Does that sound familiar? If you’ve been struggling with panic attacks, you may recognize the reasoning above as something you’ve experienced and grown woefully familiar with. Well, the point here is two-fold: for one, to make you realize there are many others who have just the same experience as you. Second, you should know that even though some children are genetically prone towards anxiety, it does not mean they’ll definitely develop this problem when they grow older.
It just means that such children must be consistently supported during their growth, to reduce the chances of having anxiety problems later in their life. If you suffer from anxiety problems, or if you have suffered in the past, and you’re now a parent… this is something you should watch for in your children; remember, provided your support and guidance, your kids won’t have to endure the same problems as you’ve had. Why not open up to your kids and tell them honestly about your problems with anxiety? You may be surprised to realize that not only do they understand your feelings of doom, but they can relate to them to some extent.