Anxiety and Genetics

Can anxiety be passed on to future generations through our genes?

In contrast to the well-documented connection between parents and offspring in clinical anxiety, not much was known about the relationship between the everyday-life anxieties of parents (e.g., family, finances, health) and the anxieties of their children (Adolph et al., 2021, p. 772). In their study, Adolph et al. (2021) tried to address the role of different forms of parental anxiety in the display of anxiety symptoms in children. Familial relationships and the environment may greatly influence the occurrence of an anxiety disorder. Such transgenerational transmission of anxiety is described by genetic factors and family factors that are associated with characteristics of parent–child exchanges. For instance, having a first-degree family member living with an anxiety disorder is considered the most reoccurring and well-replicated risk factor for individuals with anxiety disorders.

Adolph et al. (2021) recruited a large representative sample of people from the general population (p. 774). They assessed (1) the number of symptoms of DSM-IV anxiety disorders parents had experienced over the last year and over the course of their life time (e.g., fear of specific objects or circumstances, panic symptoms), (2) the number of disorder-unspecific (bodily) anxiety symptoms (e.g., dizziness, wobbliness in knees, faintness, etc.), and (3) the number of anxieties pertaining to day-to-day-life (e.g., fears about familial well-being, financial circumstances, etc.). In a similar manner, Adolph et al. (2021) assessed the number of symptoms of DSM-IV anxiety disorders displayed in the children of these parents over the last 12 months. Importantly, the authors found that specific parental DSM-IV symptoms foretold the same DSM-IV symptoms in offspring.

Anxiety has played some part in my life. Both my mother and I have experienced anxiety. Although I don’t live with an anxiety disorder, I have experienced anxiety in many of the same circumstances as my mother. For example, she’d experience anxiety when taking exams or giving presentations, just as I have. With time and experience, we have both been able to manage. So, genetics do play a role in a person’s experience of anxiety, but I believe a person’s environment is the major contributor.

By talking about your experience of anxiety in guided talk therapy you may gradually gain control over it. Send a message to to book your free consultation today!


Adolph, D., Margraf, J., & Schneider, S. (2021). Your fear is my fear: The relationship between parental and offspring anxieties. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 52(5), 772–781.