It might be neat to see that Johnny or Susie has our blue eyes or funny sense of humor. It is remarkable when there are two left-handed children in the family, when one parent is left-handed and the other is not. But certainly, most parents do not cheer when their child has their anxiety issues. A recent study cited in the article ‘Parents Can Learn How To Prevent Anxiety In Their Children‘ that was discussed at the NPR website proves there is hope in addressing anxiety disorders among children, who are more at risk of having anxiety disorders when they have anxious parents.
In this article by Lynne Shallcross the study suggests that while anxious parents are more likely to have children with anxiety issues, all hope should not be lost. As she says, the “trajectory is not set in stone.” According to a study that was released on Friday, in the “American Journal of Psychiatry,” therapy and a change in parenting style, might be able to prevent anxiety disorders in the next generation.
Researchers involved in the study looked at 136 families, all who had at least one parent with a diagnosed anxiety disorder. This same sample had at least one child in the six to thirteen year old age range that had not yet been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Approximately half the families received eight weekly sessions of family therapy, while the other half received only a long hand-out describing anxiety disorder, without any specifics on how to reduce anxiety. Can you guess who fared better? After one year, only five percent of children from the families who had received therapy had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, compared to 31 percent of the children from families who only received the hand out. The study’s premise was answered that yes indeed, anxiety disorders could be prevented among children, whose parents had diagnosed anxiety disorders, with treatment-for at least a year.
What’s exciting is that this same sample will continue to be studied into adolescence and early adulthood. The study received a stream of funding through The National Institute of Mental Health. It will be determined if therapeutic intervention is enough to ward off future diagnoses. Such studies will hopefully shift the paradigm in mental health from reaction to prevention.
While everyone feels anxiety, individuals with anxiety disorders feel excessive, sometimes unexplainable amounts of it. There is no single cause for it; it is a byproduct of genetic and environmental factors. The idea is that as anxiety can run in families and that certain parenting styles can exacerbate it. With proper intervention, it is hoped that new means of behavior can be learned and hopefully prevent future diagnoses in the same family system.