Panic attacks are common, and many individuals experience them at least once. But are panic attacks hereditary or environmentally determined? Are they signs that one’s genetic makeup predisposes one to anxiety disorders? Or are they caused by environmental factors, such as poor nutrition and stress?
The debate on the heritability of anxiety disorders is old. Proponents of a genetic influence argue that anxiety is a heritable disorder. It is unlikely that environmental factors adequately explain this heritability alone. For example, one can inherit the condition, which also runs in families. Yet, there is no consensus on the influence of DNA transmission on anxiety.
Several studies suggest a strong genetic influence on anxiety. Research suggests genes are more important in determining anxiety for women than men. A study of over 6,000 twins found that anxiety was significantly more heritable in women than men. Other studies have shown a link in families of those with panic disorder. Their first-degree relatives are six times more susceptible to developing the condition! This relationship suggests there is a strong genetic link to panic disorder.
The genetics of panic disorder may run in the family, but they are not always clear. Genetics researchers are still searching for the gene that causes anxiety. But, they’ve already identified several genes thought to be responsible for anxiety. And future research may establish a link between genetics and panic disorder. The genes that cause anxiety vary in each individual. Thus the same gene may cause different symptoms in different individuals.
Genetics plays a part in anxiety and panic disorders. But genetics alone aren’t the complete answer. Individuals with anxiety disorders are not always predisposed to the same condition. The same goes for phobias. Genetics affects many aspects of anxiety, including how a person expresses it. While genetics can play a role, the environment plays a significant role. The environmental component is one of the many reasons people should seek therapy. Sessions help sufferers cope with their symptoms.
Researchers believe environmental factors also contribute to developing panic attacks. Poor nutrition, exposure to toxins, and stress can all contribute to anxiety disorders. Traumatic events are also a potential cause. One study found those who had experienced trauma were more prone to panic disorder.
There is no one cause of panic attacks. Both genetic and environmental factors play a role in developing panic attacks. If you have concerns about your risk of developing panic disorder, talk to your doctor. Tell them your family history and any stressful events you have experienced. They will recommend a plan to support you.