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anxietySusan feels she can’t stop worrying no matter how hard she tries. She’s beginning to wonder if she is a born worry. She is asking, “Can worry be genetic?”

In 2007, Yale researchers found a gene variation associated with chronic worrying and what they call “overthinking.” The discovered “worry gene” is the result of a genetic mutation that predicts a tendency to ruminate (obsess over negative thoughts).[i] In fact, parts of the brain associated with planning, reason and impulse control show increased activity in worriers. [ii]

Areas of the brain are linked along a circuit. The way the brain is wired regulates our response to danger and threatening events. For some people, that circuitry is more activated and causes more anxiety and frustration. This is the case with people who are diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Swedish and German scientists also believe that two genes account for the development of fears that are not easily overcome in some people.[iii] Without overwhelming you with science, the point is that our genetic make-up interacts with the environment, causing some of us to be more susceptible to fear and anxiety.

Knowing this should help you worry less about why you worry! Having said that, I do not want you to worry about your susceptibility to worry! For those of you who do possess those now discovered anxiety genes, it still takes stressful life events to bring worry to the forefront. Having a tendency towards worry does not mean you will automatically become Chicken Little! But you may need to be more intentional when it comes to sending worry packing.

 

Excepted and adapted from Letting Go of Worry by Dr. Linda Mintle (Harvest House, 2011)

[i][i] Melinda Beck, “When Fretting is in your DNA: Overcoming the worry gene,” Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2008, Health section, Online edition. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120035992325490045.html (accessed March 10, 2010).

[ii] Stefan Hofmann et al., “The Worried Mind: Autonomic and Prefrontal Activation During Worrying,”Emotion 5, no. 4 (2005): 464.

[iii] Tina Lonsdorf et al. “Genetic Gating of Human Fear Learning and Extinction: Possible Implications for Gene-Environment Interaction in Anxiety Disorder,” Psychological Science, 20, no. 2, (2009), http://pss.sagepub.com/content/20/2/198.

 

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