Year after year, Nathalie battled anxiety. It was something she tried hard to avoid, but failed miserably. Negative thoughts often overwhelmed her, resulting in low self-esteem. Her anxiety mostly revolved around social situations. She constantly found herself drowning in the fear of having a panic attack in public.
Nathalie consulted several specialists, including psychologists and naturopaths, who prescribed her different medications, such as Cipramil, Effexor, Zoloft. She even tried different forms of alternative healing, but it hardly had any effect. Fortunately, her new doctor, who was a perfect blend of knowledge, compassion, patience and curiosity, made an effort to delve deeper into Nathalie’s case history. The doctor recommended a methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) variation test for her to detect common mutations in the MTHFR gene which are linked to higher levels of homocysteine in the blood. It is a well-known fact that such mutations can trigger mood disorders and severe anxiety episodes.
In the course of the investigation, the doctor discovered that Nathalie’s mother and maternal grandparents suffered from regular nervous breakdowns and social phobias. This threw a new light on Nathalie’s case.
No wonder, it is said that genes shape the brain. However, besides genetic factors, children of anxious parents also exhibit anxiety themselves, which could be a learned behavior.
Overriding the anxiety gene
According to the National Institute of Mental Health(NIMH), “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18 percent of the population.”
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) believes that people with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from them.
Modern pediatricians feel that if children begin to develop a particular fear or exhibit symptoms of anxiety or withdrawal, parents need to help them manage their symptoms better. Shaming them or being dismissive does not help solve the problem. Further, the key to managing a child’s anxiety is to help them express what they are feeling. Unfortunately, most parents or elders end up panicking and manifesting anxiety themselves making the situation worse.
They tend to forget that being calm and staying composed is the best way to handle anxiety in children. However, a time-tested method to help young ones conquer their own fears and anxieties is to gradually increase their exposure to what they deem to be a threat. For instance, to remove the fear of dogs from little minds, it is a great idea to encourage them to approach a calm pet dog and attempt patting the animal affectionately.
Before everything, one should understand that children are not miniature versions of parents. Viewing them objectively is vital to their proper growth and development.
Nipping anxiety in the bud
Researches show that just like any other health-related problem, anxiety can also be hereditary. It is important for parents to be aware of this so that they are able to help children overcome fear and anxiety. This is because, if left untreated, anxiety can lead to other mental disorders, such as depression or substance abuse.