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Is Anxiety Inherited?

There’s no argument that humans are born with genetic tendencies (predispositions) toward certain physical as well as psychological traits. You can have a predisposition toward alcohol, obesity, music, art, mathematics, athletics, introversion or extroversion, but unless a tendency is embraced and reinforced, it won’t necessarily manifest itself. A predisposition toward anxiety is no different. If you’re anxious, it’s important for you to realize that anxiety isn’t a life sentence–it’s only a tendency toward an array of insecure, worrisome, out of control thinking (and feeling). A tendency that will remain innocuous if not reinforced.

Another way of viewing a predisposition is to see it lowering the threshold toward certain conditions. Stressful life circumstances, for example, may evoke an anxiety reaction in one person, while someone with a higher threshold may be unaffected by the same stressor. If you happen to have a lower threshold for anxiety (i.e., if you are predisposed) then you may, in fact, be somewhat more susceptible to anxiety and stress related disturbances. The key is understanding that a susceptibility to anxiety doesn’t guarantee that you will become anxious. For this to happen, you have to reinforce it. How is a disposition toward anxiety reinforced? By allowing insecurity to feed it. And when it comes to feeding anxiety, insecurity has three typical expressions: doubts, fears, and negatives.

Consciously or unconsciously, if you allow this feeding to persist you begin a process of depletion. Over time, this stressful erosion creates imbalances, both psychological as well as physiologically, which is why medication works (it reverses the depleted condition created by reflexive, insecurity-driven thinking). To topple anxiety you must break this vicious cycle by learning to starve the thoughts that feed it. Easier said than done, right? When overwhelmed with anxiety, ruminative worry or panic, it’s easy to lose perspective. This is why a patient, methodical approach­­defusing one thought at a time–is essential.

In order to be convinced that you can take the necessary leap of faith and confront your irrational, insecurity-driven habit of anxiety, you’re going to need a strong foundation of understanding and awareness. Self-Coaching approaches this by: 1.) teaching you to separate facts from fictions (e.g., insecurity creates fictions, “What if I catch her cold?“ “What if I get fired?” The problem begins when we treat these fictions as if they are facts; 2.) putting a stop to the run-away thoughts of insecurity that feed your habit (i.e., specifically, thoughts expressed as doubts, fears, and negatives) and; 3.) breaking anxiety’s destructive cycle by learning to let go of congested, insecurity-driven thinking. As I see it, a habit of anxiety, like all habits, prefer the dark, once exposed, they quickly begin to wilt. One thought at a time!

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