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Learned Anxiety Passed From Parent to Child

Parenting can often be stressful and for those with an anxiety disorder it can be even more difficult to deal with anxiety-causing situations in a calm and rational manner. With evidence showing children can learn anxious behavior from their parents it is important for parents to learn and model coping strategies instead of “passing on” learned anxiety.

Learned Anxiety and Risk Factors

Stress and anxiety is having an unprecedented impact not only on adult mental, emotional and physical health, parental anxiety is also affecting the children. With children often looking to their parents reactions to different situations and events, a consistently anxious parent may pass on those emotions and feelings to their child. The development of anxious behavior in children may be a combination of genetic risk factors and learned behaviors.

Mirror Neurons Reflect Back Anxiety

In humans, part of our brain is equipped with the ability to recognize and understand the emotions that others express around us. The term “mirror neurons” refers to this ability to reflect back the emotions we see and is the reason that for example an infant will smile back at us when we smile at them. Mirror neurons however respond to all kinds of expressed emotion, including, anxious behaviors. Stressful parenting is often contagious – when your own anxiety neurons are firing, your child’s anxiety neurons are firing too.

Strategies of Change

Working with a mental health professional experienced in the successful treatment of parenting with an anxiety disorder can help you effectively manage your own issues which in turn will help your children manage their own learned anxiety and stress. Passing your anxiety disorder onto your children is not inevitable. Management of your anxiety disorder will help your children learn how to effectively cope with situations of uncertainty, doubt, or anxiety.

Find a Doctor to Help Manage Anxiety

End your struggle with anxiety, stress, and finding daily life difficult to find calm and peace. Call Dr. Hege for a confidential appointment. Convenient weeknight and weekend appointments are available.