Anxiety: Is it Caused by Nature or Nurture?

May 19 13:14 2009 Dan Stelter Print This Article

So which is it?

One thing that has been debated for many years and will continue to be debated for some time is the nature versus nurture debate.  What is this debate?  This debate centers on what has caused a person’s mental condition,Guest Posting in this case anxiety.  On the one hand, many people believe that we are born into our mental state (nature), while on the other hand, another group of people feel that we are conditioned by our experiences to have certain mental states (nurture).
So, is anxiety a product of our natural biology, or is it a product of our upbringing and other life experiences?  I believe that I have a complex, but very reasonable answer.  With each person, anxiety is brought on by different varying events, or even biology.

The first example that I will use is that of someone who suffers severe anxiety during a certain situation, such as driving.  In some cases, this anxiety is brought on by the fact that this person had a traumatic experience, either recently or as a child, that has caused this person to feel anxious whenever driving.  Once the person learns to deal with this traumatic experience and then learns the proper skills to manage the anxiety, then he or she is able to drive while experience little to no anxiety at all. 

The second example that I will use is one that many of us have experienced.  Some of us, and I include myself in this category, can remember being shy and anxious around people from the time we were youngsters.  There was never a time when we can recall feeling relaxed.  This seems to confirm the nurture side of the argument.

But, can anxiety be caused by both?  The answer is that it most certainly can, and I believe that this is true of almost anything.  Whenever there are two sides to an issue, it is rarely true that one side is correct, while the other side is incorrect.  Instead, pieces of each are true, and it is up to us to determine which pieces are true in our case.  So, for example, take a look at someone who has been shy their whole life, but has also been treated very poorly by his or her parents and other significant figures in his or her own life.  These figures are unable to understand the person’s condition, and instead of trying to help this person through the condition, they choose instead to ridicule or tease and taunt the child for being afraid of situations of which most are not.  This person’s biological anxiety level, whatever it is, will then obviously be amplified by his or her life’s experiences.  The converse is true.  Say a person is very shy as a youngster, but instead finds him or herself with parents and other peers who understand the condition and are very encouraging of the child in any attempts he or she makes to overcome his or her anxiety.  They are also very supportive and active in helping the child to make friends.  This child’s biological anxiety level will then be reduced by his or her life’s experiences.  From these examples, to which many of us can relate to varying degrees, it seems that this is a very plausible view of anxiety, or any other mental condition for that matter, that helps to explain how the condition is formed.

Finally, I would also like to note that this argument allows for a person’s difficulties with anxiety as an adult to be entirely due to biology.  Some of us may have anxiety so strongly wound within our neurochemistry that even with people who are attempting their best to help and are actually doing a good job of it in our lives still may find that we nonetheless end up with intense anxiety.  The converse could possibly also be true.  Some of us may have no biological predisposition to any anxiety condition whatsoever, but then because of varying life experiences, we may find that we are nonetheless afflicted by an intense anxiety condition.

So, in sum, whatever one’s anxiety condition may be, it could be do in part to nature or to nurture, or it could be due entirely to nature, or entirely to nurture.  Having an understanding and taking the time to analyze our anxiety condition is not a requirement for one to recover from anxiety, but it can be immensely helpful.  The bottom line is that, while anxiety’s presence in our lives can be due to widely varying circumstances, it can always be treated so that the afflicted individual lives a happy and fulfilling life.  No matter how daunting the task may seem, it can and will be accomplished if one continues to work at it. 

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