New Study Reveals Anxiety Might Be Hereditary

portrait of a young woman in bed unable to sleep

REJOICE, everyone who’s ever spent half the night up worrying about how to avoid contracting Ebola. It turns out that anxiety might be hereditary. We’re not sure if this is good news or bad news — good because it could explain why you suddenly wake up with anxiety for no reason one day, bad because inherited means you might not have a lot of choice in the matter.

A study that was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences came to the conclusion that about 35 percent of the variation in early anxiety comes straight from the ‘rents.

To figure this out, the researchers studied the anxiety levels of a bunch of rhesus monkeys. Yes, before you ask, these researcher technically set their subjects up in anxiety-inducing situations. Naturally, some people weren’t super thrilled and actually tried to get these studies shut down. Like drunk people, monkeys can’t consent.

This anxiety-inducing situation involved having a human stranger — to the monkeys, that is — enter the room and then refuse to make contact or acknowledge them. (They don’t like that.) During the course of the experiment, the researchers paid attention to the anxious behaviors exhibited by the subjects. They were able to track which behaviors were hereditary since the researchers were already aware of the monkeys’ family lineages.

They then took this even further by looking at brain scans of the anxious monkeys to see where the brain activity was occurring during their anxious moment. What they found was that increased activity in different areas in the brain were similar in monkeys who were related, suggesting that brain patterns, and the propensity to have them, can be hereditary as well. Basically, there’s a lot more activity going on in certain regions, related to fear and, in anxious brains. Yep, they can now see overthinking.

But before you call dad and blame him for your inability to make decisions and tendency to fall apart whenever you get overwhelmed by your FOMO anxiety, know this: while 35 percent of early anxiety can be attributed to genetics, that  leaves 65 percent open to the rest of life. So yes, dealing with and preventing anxiety is possible.

The same researchers are currently trying to figure out why half of children dealing with anxiety are able to grow out of it while half develop full-blown anxiety disorders. We’ll be waiting patiently in the meantime, you know, trying not to worry about it. [h/t Live Science]