Is my anxiety a chemical imbalance in my brain or the way I was raised ?
I was sitting in the park watching a fearless little girl climb up a huge rock and suddenly I heard the high pitched tone of her anxious mom coming from a nearby bench, “Get down right now Anna before you break your neck.” Everything on the playground was also going to break little Anna’s neck (swinging too high, climbing on the jungle gym, running, etc).
We all know parents like this and children like Anna, so what will happen to the girl? She could either become anxious like her mom, fearful of things because everything is clearly dangerous or she could go on to continue being fearless and become a mountain climber. Either one is entirely possible. If the child becomes anxious is it because her mom was a helicopter parent or because she inherited her mother’s genetics that are anxiety prone?
I get these questions a lot and it is human nature to want to know the cause of the problem first. However the bottom-line to this question is it doesn’t matter! Whether you were born this way from day 1 or your childhood caused you become a ball of nerves does not matter right now. Right now we are in the present moment and need to focus here first. Assess what symptoms you are having, get in touch with what is actually going on in your body and mind and what you need to do to help these symptoms get better. People can get stuck in trying to figure out the “why” which can feed into avoidance of taking steps to figure out what is going on for them right now and what steps they can take to gain some movement.
Everything in our body and minds is a mixture of our genetics from our family and our social environment. There is no point where one ends and the other begins. When you are diagnosed with diabetes for example it is something wrong physically in your body because when you were born you inherited your parents genes prone to diabetes. Life style decisions such as eating, exercise, stress, etc can influence whether these genes get triggered or not. However it may not always prevent our genetics from coming out, for example doing a healthy activity such as yoga is great but it doesn’t guarantee you won’t develop diabetes if you have a strong genetic predisposition for the disease.
What does this mean for your anxiety?
Since both social environment and genetics are intertwined and constantly influencing our health and well being we need to address both when needed. If your anxiety is to the point of not being able to leave your house, then medication may be helpful to help the brain calm your anxiety enough to leave the house so you can do other things that may help like go to yoga, or see a therapist. Many people have moderate anxiety where it may be enough to see a therapist regularly and exercise to help reduce their symptoms. All of these things need tweaking based on your own needs. You need to check in with yourself and monitor if it is working. For example in the summer it is enough for me to get in exercise outside to feel good but in the winter I can feel my mood dropping as the days get shorter and colder, so I need to tweak my daily habits such as going out earlier in the morning to get sunlight, taking vitamins, finding an exercise class to join, etc. Listen to your body and mind to find out what you need to do for yourself.