50 Signs of Stress and Anxiety that May Surprise You

warningsign_istock_000004940205xsmallAll to often, we are unaware of how our stress is affecting us. Here are 50 signs to help you get a better understanding of how YOUR stress affects not only your health but also your life.

1. Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
2. Gritting, grinding teeth
3. Stuttering or stammering
4. Tremors, trembling of lips, hands
5. Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
6. Light headedness, faintness, dizziness
7. Ringing, buzzing or “popping sounds
8. Frequent blushing, sweating
9. Cold or sweaty hands, feet
10. Dry mouth, problems swallowing
11. Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores
12. Rashes, itching, hives, “goose bumps”
13. Unexplained or frequent “allergy” attacks
14. Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea
15. Excess belching, flatulence
16. Constipation, diarrhea
17. Difficulty breathing, sighing
18. Sudden attacks of panic
19. Chest pain, palpitations
20. Frequent urination
21. Poor sexual desire or performance
22. Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness
23. Increased anger, frustration, hostility
24. Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
25. Increased or decreased appetite
26. Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
27. Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
28. Trouble learning new information
29. Forgetfulness, disorganization, confusion
30. Difficulty in making decisions
31. Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed
32. Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts
33. Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
34. Little interest in appearance, punctuality
35. Nervous habits, fidgeting, feet tapping
36. Increased frustration, irritability, edginess
37. Overreaction to petty annoyances
38. Increased number of minor accidents
39. Obsessive or compulsive behavior
40. Reduced work efficiency or productivity
41. Lies or excuses to cover up poor work
42. Rapid or mumbled speech
43. Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness
44. Problems in communication, sharing
45. Social withdrawal and isolation
46. Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue
47. Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs
48. Weight gain or loss without diet
49. Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use
50. Excessive gambling or impulse buying
(Source: stresstop.com)

Learn more about stress here!

Move Anxiety Out of Your Head

Writing down all of your worries in a journal can help you let go of much of the anxiety that invades your mind.  Putting it all down on paper can give you a better perspective.

writing-stencilWhen you allow your worries or problems to percolate in your mind, they can multiply and become much larger and more confusing or daunting in your head than they truly are.  When you get them in writing, you can begin to use your logical, analytical mind to do some productive problem solving.  Having the same worries rolling ’round and ’round in your mind is unproductive.

It’s easier to exaggerate problems when anxious thoughts stay in your head instead of moving out onto a piece of paper…especially with those “What If” thoughts.  [Is “What If” ever followed by something POSITIVE???]  It’s easier to exaggerate the likelihood or the probability of those What Ifs coming true when they are swirling around in your mind.

Write worries down, close the notebook, and walk away (literally and figuratively).  Right before bed is a great time to do this to clear your mind for a good night’s sleep.

Want to be FREE?

We all want to be FREE…

Free to DO what we want.
Free to BE who we want to be.
Free to be HAPPY living a life we love.

Yet we often feel as if something is stopping us from truly feeling free.

This morning, despite a super busy schedule and a daunting “To Do List,” I chose freedom to take a break and admire the daylillies in my garden. This is one of my joys of summer. Their season is short and each blossom lasts for one short day. So I chose to allow myself to be FREE to enjoy and admire the blossoms of the day – even though my mind said I “should” have been handling all the things in my Inbox, or doing one of the dozens of things on my growing “To Do List.”

FreeGuess what? When you die your Inbox will still be full and you’ll still have a “To Do List.” The time to be FREE is right here and now.

So today I allowed myself the luxury of a few minutes of peace and happiness admiring my lillies – no guilt, no thinking about the Inbox. Just enjoying the moment and smiling.
For me, that felt FREE.

What do you mean by “Free?”

“Free” can be defined (with the help of dictionary.com) as: the state of being at liberty rather than in confinement; immunity from external control or interference. I think of being free as having the luxury of choice because when you choose something you feel less confined, more in control.

Here’s how freedom starts:

                              You have to WANT it
                              You have to CHOOSE it
                              You have to ALLOW it

What do you want to be FREE of?

    • Burdens or obligations?
    • Continual worry?
    • Emotional eating or excess weight?
    • Stress or anxiety?
    • Overwhelm?
    • Obsessive thoughts or actions?
    • Depression?
    • Insomnia?
    • Clutter?

Now, what do want instead?

Figuring this out is sometimes half the battle. Clients often have a hard time telling me what it is that they really want. What they think of first are all the things they don’t want. If you didn’t have those things, what would you want instead that would make you feel more free?

Once you know what you want, then you choose it. Sounds simple; actually doing it requires re-learning some of your “old” habits of thinking. Let’s start with how you think of the concept of “choice.” Choice always leads to greater freedom.

Think There are Some Things You Have No Choice Over?

I challenge you to think again, and I know sometimes it’s not easy. The problem comes in when your mind is tricked into believing that you have no choice. No choice about the responsibilities, the diagnosis, worry, anxiety, emotional eating, depression, clutter, etc.

The truth is that you always have a choice, even when it feels like you don’t. Even when you do something you don’t really want to do (like staying up late to finish that cleaning, going to the doctor, or doing that one thing that “needs” to be done), you ARE actually making a choice to do it.

You could always make a choice to NOT do it. It’s just that there would be consequences of making that choice and because of the consequences, you choose to do it. Understanding this leads to a much greater sense of empowerment than feeling like you had no choice in the matter.

Choosing is always more empowering than feeling like you “have to” or that it simply has to be a certain way. Choosing always feels better than living with something because you think you “need to” or “must.”

Re-training Your Mind: Part 1 = Choosing

The key to feeling free is to expand your awareness of your choices, and realize you are constantly making choices that are YOUR choices. Realize that there are many choices which at first may not appear to be options. This requires developing a new skill: re-training your mind to think differently and expand your choices. It takes skill, time and practice to start seeing choices where previously you couldn’t see any.


Let’s say you “have to” pick up your daughter from school immediately due to sudden illness. It really feels like you “must” do this because your child is ill and the school says you “must” take your daughter home immediately. But to do it, you’ll have to leave work in the middle of a very important customer meeting which will probably mean your company loses business from this customer (which is entirely unacceptable to your boss).

trueHonestly, you always have choices:

  • Leave and pick her up?
  • Ask someone else to pick her up?
  • Pay someone to pick her up?
  • Have a taxi pick her up?
  • Have her take the bus home?
  • Wait and pick her up after this meeting?
  • Wait and pick her up at the end of the day?

Can you brainstorm others? Your mind may have immediately discarded some of those choices and judged them as not viable. Realize you actually make split-second evaluations of the consequences of every choice. Some consequences you prefer over others. Then you choose. You don’t “have to” do any one of them. You choose one that you’ll do.

When the choice is yours, I promise you will feel more free no matter which choice you make.

Now you’re in the driver’s seat of your life, instead of letting people or circumstances or old, limited thought patterns dictate your life.

Re-training Your Mind: Part 2 = Allowing

Once your mind learns to generate more choices and to consciously choose, the next skill is ALLOWING the freedom. Like I allowed the luxury of being with the lillies without guilt or worry about what wasn’t getting done, you can re-train your mind to accept your choice. No second-guessing, no analysis-paralysis, no regret, no guilt, no worry. Simply allow your choice to be and to unfold. This re-training takes practice. Accept your choice and enjoy it as much as you can, knowing it came from your power to choose. Stay in the present moment with it as much as you can.
In the allowing is where you can really experience feeling free.

Check Your List Again Please


How Many Times Did You Check Your List?

‘Tis the season of giving. You’re making a list and checking it twice.

Well, please check it again because I’m pretty sure you forgot a very important thing: YOU.

Taxis on 7th Avenue at Times Square, New York City

This season (and its gift-giving tradition) only tends to magnify what most of us do all year round: Run around doing too many things, feeling like we never have enough time, doing for everyone else, and prioritizing ourselves last much of the time.


Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On First

There’s a reason why they give that instruction on airplanes.  Can you see how filling your cup first really makes thegifts-stencil most sense? You have more mindful presence, energy, and love to offer others when your own cup runneth over. 

What’s the point of creating the “perfect” holiday or giving someone that “perfect” gift  if it has your pressured and stressed out energy attached to it? You will enjoy the giving so much more if your energy is positive and relaxed. You will be more present with each present.

How to Give to Yourself First

christmasornament-stencilGifting yourself can come in small moments in your day-to-day life. For example, as I wrote this, my gift to myself was to step away and enjoy my lunch instead of multi-tasking (eating and writing).

Last night the gift to myself was a yoga class. Tomorrow I am gifting myself with a new pair of shoes from my favorite shoe store. More important than the shoes themselves is the gift of planning time into my schedule to actually do it.

Giving yourself the less tangible gifts can often be the most meaningful. Last night I was getting wrapped up in upset about a decision a family member was making . . . so I gave myself the gift of letting go of wanting things to be other than the way they are. Today I gave myself the gift of peace by accepting that my schedule for the day was not playing out the way I hoped or planned due to unforeseen circumstances.

Start with the Gift of Permission

Why is giving ourselves permission so hard? We get so used to putting other things and other people first, and we rarely put ourselves at the top of our own “to-do list.”

Maybe you even feel guilty putting your needs and desires first. After all, they say it’s better to give than to receive, right? Yes and No. Yes, giving can be pleasurable and satisfying thing. But what if all the givers would only give but not receive?

It is an act of loving yourself to allow yourself to receive. Give yourself permission to give to yourself. You will find yourself more relaxed, healthier, happier and ready to take on your never-ending to-do list with renewed positive energy, and with less resentment.

The Gift of Not Doing

Not Doing can also be an important gift to yourself: Not making that extra batch of Christmas cookies, not attending every single holiday party, not staying up late on Facebook, not having that third glass of wine, not rushing out of the house at the last minute frantic about being late, not going to the 6th store to see if they have a better “whatever” than the first 5 stores . . .

The Not Doing can be the most important thing to give yourself permission for. But often times, the most important thing can also be the hardest. Don’t sell out on yourself. What you want and what you need matter. You matter.

Make Your Own Wish List

You have many opportunities each day to offer yourself simple yet beautiful and meaningful gifts.

Ask yourself:
• What could I give myself right now?
• What’s the gift I want to offer myself today?
• This week?
• This holiday season?

You have a giving heart. You do a lot and give a lot to others. Can you extend that heart to yourself? Can you give yourself permission to extend kindness and generosity to yourself, knowing you are important and deserving?



Can you love yourself more this holiday season (and always!) by putting yourself at the top of your gift list?

Anxiety Disorder? Do I have one?

Holistic Anxiety therapy with Di Philippi, MA, LPCI don’t like labels. In the anxiety therapy field, we have a defined set of “anxiety disorder” codes to use for diagnosis.  The codes are limited because they force us to lump people in categories and use labels based on criteria that don’t always accurately describe the real problem.

I prefer an individualized approach.  I look at the unique way that anxiety surfaces for each person, and then focus on making a customized plan focused on solving the real problem rather than on giving someone a label. Problems come and go but labels stick.

People often ask whether what they are experiencing is anxiety, so here’s a look at some different types of anxiety (without worrying about the labels).Remember these are generalities and show up differently for different people.

Different Types of Anxiety

Chronic Worry

You would probably call yourself a “worry wart.” You constantly worry about a number of different things… work, health, relationships. You think of worst-case scenarios and often wonder “what if” this or “what if” that.

Panic Attacks (aka Anxiety Attacks)

You suddenly feel physical symptoms that feel out of control, such as heart racing, dizziness, trembling, sweating, chills or flush, tingling or numbness. It comes out of nowhere and is very scary. You might think you’re having a heart attack and go to the emergency room, only to find out nothing is physically wrong.

Stock Photo by Sean Locke www.digitalplanetdesign.com

Fears and Phobias

You have strong fears of very specific things, such as: flying, driving, heights, enclosed spaces (like elevators, planes, or rooms without a clear exit route), feeling trapped, bugs, blood, driving, being alone, or being away from home. These are just some examples.

Social Anxiety (Shyness)

You often feel nervous around other people, perhaps only in a certain social situation, or in many different ones. You feel very self-conscious, wonder what people are thinking about you, and worry about embarrassing yourself. It’s hard to go into new situations and have to meet new people.

Obsessive Thinking

You have the very same upsetting thoughts over and over again. This could include thoughts of losing control, being contaminated (or contaminating others) with dirt or germs, or feeling guilty for things you didn’t even do. 

Compulsive Behaviors

You have an urge to do certain things. Perhaps count things, check and re-check things, wash/clean repeatedly, repeat words, or arrange things in a certain way. It’s like you HAVE TO do them out of fear that something bad could happen. You can’t seem to stop yourself.

Traumatic Reactions

Stress Meter Showing  Panic Attack From Stress And Worry

You still have intense memories, emotions, flashbacks, and/or nightmares related to a past traumatic situation you witnessed or experienced. You may avoid certain places, people or situations. You may feel jumpy or “on alert” much of the time. Traumatic situations could include abuse, rape, violence, car accidents, miscarriage, bullying, injury/illness, someone dying, or many other things.


“Stuff” is overtaking your home. You may collect too many things, have a problem getting rid of things, and/or have a problem organizing things… to the point where it limits the use of your living spaces and wastes significant amounts of time.

Health Concerns

Your doctor tells you there is nothing to be concerned about, but you still seem to have continual health complaints and symptoms. You often focus on health problems and may wonder if you have a serious medical condition even though you’ve never been diagnosed with one.

Over-focus on Body Imagebody-image-istock_000019996761xsmall

You’re convinced there’s something about your physical appearance that looks terrible. You’re sure everyone notices so you don’t believe them when they say that there’s nothing wrong, or that you’re beautiful. It could be related to your body shape, weight, acne, hair, nose or any another body feature.  It might be all you can see when you look in the mirror.

Public Speaking Anxiety

You dread having to speak in front of a group of people (small or large). You get extremely nervous, afraid that your mind will go blank or that you may make a fool of yourself.

Performance or Test Anxiety

You get overly anxious and nervous when you’re expected to perform or compete in front of others.  You do poorly on tests even though you are well prepared.

“Shy Bladder”

You avoid public restrooms. You can’t urinate when others are in the bathroom or might be within earshot. Even if you try, you just can’t go.

White Coat Syndrome

You get nervous even thinking about doctor appointments, and your blood pressure spikes every time you go to a doctor’s office (and therefore they often want to give you medication for it).

Productive Worry vs. Unproductive Worry

bad-goodsign-stencilDo you worry too much? Most of us would say that we do.

Did you know that there is a difference between productive worry and unproductive worry? It’s true! Not all worrying is bad for you. In fact, some form of worry is healthy. It’s actually your mind’s way of protecting you and keeping you safe.

The problem occurs when those worries become unproductive, creating anxious thoughts. As an anxiety therapist, I’ve found that once you understand the difference between productive and unproductive worry, the easier it is to use that knowledge to eliminate a great deal of your anxiety.

Productive Worry

Each day, we’re faced with problems. There are solutions to those problems somewhere, and it’s just a matter of finding them. Productive worry moves you toward an action plan to deal with the problems you encounter each day.

For example, let’s say I wake up one morning and I don’t feel well and I start to worry about my health. That type of worry prompts me to take better care of myself, to eat better, take my supplements, and be sure to get enough sleep.  Can you see how productive worry prompts action? Those actions are the keys to finding realistic solutions to the problems you’re facing.

Unproductive Worry Increases Anxiety

On the other hand, unproductive worry asks the same question over and over again: “What if?” This can be a debilitating question because of the anxiety it inevitably causes.  “What if?” is never followed by anything good, is it?

Instead of being solution-oriented, unproductive worry creates new problems for you. It can also make your current problems seem much worse. Have you ever asked yourself these questions:

  • What if something goes wrong?
  • What If I make a mistake?
  • What if the unexpected happens?
  • What if the worst-case scenario happens? 

If you tend to worry, there are a thousand “What-if’s” you probably ask yourself all the time. The problem with these questions (and with this type of worrying) is that it keeps you from actively seeking productive solutions to the things you’re struggling with.

Leaving the Present Moment

The MindWith unproductive worry, you’re actually allowing your mind to create problems that don’t exist in the present moment.  You mind can get fixated on potential problems that may or may not ever occur in the future.  Be honest with yourself: How often do those “What-if’s” and worst-case scenarios actually happen?

Unproductive worry instantly creates anxiety. That’s precisely how you can tell that it is the unproductive variety. Unproductive worry creates a vicious cycle of worry that is typical for chronic worriers.

The key to breaking the vicious cycle is to shift worry from unproductive to productive. Start doing this by formulating an action plan for even the smallest of problems you encounter each day.  Consider writing it down to keep it from swirling round and round in your head.

Could Worry Be Comforting?

Too often, people get stuck in their unproductive worry cycle. Perhaps it’s because that’s the only way they know how to think.  Perhaps they grew up in a home where that  worry or anxiety was common. 

Often times clients will come to realize that they worry because it actually makes them more comfortable.  There’s some temporary comfort in worrying because it can feel like you’re addressing or preventing the problem.  But this is just a misperception. Unproductive worry never solves or prevents problems. Any comfort it brings is short-lived and as soon as a state of discomfort returns, it brings on more worry. And the vicious cycle continues.

Get Off the Hamster Wheel

Problems usually get bigger (exaggerated in your mind) the longer the unproductive worry continues…creating more fear…creating more discomfort…therefore the need to worry more… and it’s hard to get off the hamster wheel. 

There is a way to combat anxiety, stress, tension and all of the other symptoms your worry causes you. The key is learning how to shift the old thinking patterns in your mind. Understanding the difference between productive and unproductive worry is a beginning.  Making changes in your thinking so you can feel comfortable even without worrying is the real goal.

The Calm-Down Playlist

Check out these tunes that are designed to relax, calm and bring peace of mind… 
“Makambo,” by Geoffrey Oryema
“By Your Side,” by Sade
“Pachelbel Meets U2,” by Jon Schmidt
“Shadows Fall,” by Michael Hoppé
“Diamonds in the Sun,” by Girish
“Méditation,” from the opera Thaïs, Act II
“High and Dry,” by Radiohead

Another Natural Treatment for Anxiety Symptoms

While working on the root cause of anxiety is the best long-term solution, we all need some good tools to gain some control over the symptoms.

Here’s a unique holistic tool for managing anxiety symptoms:  Homeopathy.


I’m not an expert on homeopathic remedies, but I work closely with someone who is an expert: my colleague Cherri Schleicher, Family Nurse Practitioner.  As we share office space together, we often collaborate in the treatment of our patients.  Cherri has taught me a lot about natural solutions for anxiety symptoms and now I’d like to share some of what I have learned with you.

What is Homepathy?



Homeopathy, or homeopathic medicine, is a medical philosophy and practice based on the idea that the body has the ability to heal itself. Homeopathy was founded in the late 1700s in Germany and has been widely practiced throughout Europe. Homeopathic remedies have been regulated in the United States since 1938 and are considered to be safe, with no side effects.

The good news is that homeopathic remedies are quite inexpensive.  They are small pellets dissolved under the tongue, having a very slight sweet taste. They are formulated from plants and mineral, and are completely natural with no chemical additives.


Homepathic Medicine for Anxiety

The big benefit of homeopathics for anxiety is that they have no risk of dependence or risk of being habit forming (as many prescription medications do). They have no side effects and can be used to treat children, as well as used in pregnancy. They can also be given to someone who is currently on a medication for anxiety to help in potentially decreasing the dose or permanently weaning off of the medication.

The right homeopathic medication takes into account your specific feelings, anxiety symptoms, and anxiety provoking events.

Therefore, in order for homeopathic remedies to work well on YOUR anxiety, it’s important to get an individualized recommendation from a homeopathy practitioner.  Here are some of the more common homeopathic medicines that my colleague Cherri Schleicher uses to treat anxiety symptoms:


Aconite is a homeopathic that is very beneficial for panic attacks and the individual who has a fear of dying. This fear tends to be enhanced at night.

Arsenicum Album is for the anxious individual who tends to wake up between 1-3:00am. They may also experience “feelings of doom.”

Argentum Nitricum is more for the individual who is agitated, experiences anticipatory anxiety, phobias, abdominal pain some dizziness. They also may do frequent “throat clearing.”

Ignatia is helpful after the person experiences emotional shock, also intense grief. They may also experience palpitations.

Gelsenium is helpful for the person who experiences paralyzing fear. They may feel as if their body is trembling and numbness like “their legs are being cut-off.”  Their anxiety can cause headaches around the eyes.

Kali Bromatum is helpful for the individual who becomes physically agitated with their anxiety, fidgeting of the hands and also experiences restless sleep.

Phosphorus is a medicine that helps the person who becomes more anxious in the evening and they have a tendency to feel vulnerable.

Staphysagria is for the person who feels easily humiliated and has a sense of “injustice.”

One Size Does Not Fit All

You are a unique being, and the way your anxiety appears can be unique. Symptoms can change from person to person, and can even change at different times. 

Treatment with homeopathic medicine must be adjusted and an individualized plan of care will be based on your personal history and your specific anxiety reactions. Although homeopathy is safe when used in conjunction with anxiety symptoms, it is important to determine the root cause of the problem and take an integrative approach to returning to wellness.

Feel free to contact Cherri Schleicher, FNPc APNP AHN-BC, to explore how homeopathy might be useful for you!      

You can call her at 414-640-6287 or email her at cholisticfam@wi.rr.com

One last note…if your anxiety is keeping you up at night, there is a homeopathic solution for that too!  

Think Better to Feel Better

Is it possible to consciously direct your mind so every cell in your body moves toward health, healing and wellness?

Your Brain Runs the Show

Scanning of a human brain by X-rays

Your brain really runs the show of your life, doesn’t it?  

We know that the brain controls every single physical functioning of our body, such as breathing, pumping blood, wiggling your fingers, and reading this article.   

But did you realize that your brain also controls how you feel emotionally? The limbic system is a  group of brain structures, sometimes referred to as the “emotional brain.”

According to “The Brain Encyclopedia” by Carol Turkington: 

Emotions are NOT a state of consciousness separate from the physical brain.  A person’s emotions are produced by brain chemicals intertwined with the physiological processes of the body, so that…

…What affects the body affects the mind and emotions, and vice versa!

Did you catch my earlier post on the

Mind-Body Connection?

Read more…


The Good News: The Choice is Yours

When you understand that your brain really runs the show and it has a big influence on how you feel both physically and emotionally, then you can use your brain to feel better — on purpose!

All any of us want is to feel better….to be happy, and feel good physically and emotionally. 

Thoughts of any kind create feelings, which your brain interprets – and then responds by sending signals to your body. 

Thoughts of worry, fear, pain, or hopelessness lead you to feel one way. 

Thoughts of love, contentment, happy times, or dreams for your future lead you to feel another way.

The Bad News

It doesn’t always feel like a choice. 

Sometimes it seems like thoughts and feelings come out of nowhere, as if they were random.  But they’re not.

Sometimes it seems like situations or other people make you feel a certain way. But they can’t. 

Nobody has the power to make anyone else feel any way.  That’s because what you think (conscious or sub-conscious) dictates how you feel.

Only one person has control over your thoughts.

An extreme and inspiring example of this truth comes from a famous holocaust/concentration camp survivor:

Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing:

your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

                                             — Viktor E. Frankl

The choice is yours.

Better Thoughts ==>  Better Feelings

Every feeling has a thought associated with it.  The thought comes first and then a feeling is experienced. 

Sometimes the thoughts are sub-conscious or come so quickly you’re not aware of them.  These are the tricky ones — the ones that seem to creep up on you without you realizing it.

The same rule applies whether or not you’re aware of the thought that led to what you’re feeling:  If you want to feel better, start by thinking better.

To feel better emotionally or physically (or both!!), start by reaching for a thought that feels better.  I call these “better feeling thoughts.”  

Thinking better is the fastest way to start feeling better.

Questions to ask yourself: 

  1. What am I thinking now that contributes to this undesirable feeling?
  1. How much do I practice thoughts that bring me joy?
  1. How much do I practice thoughts that bring me pain?
  1. What thought could I think right now that would feel better?

Create New Neural Pathways in Your Brain

Neural Pathways iStock_000006935562XSmallEven though all these concepts make sense to people, I am often asked:

“Yeah, but HOW DO I DO IT?” 

IT IS POSSIBLE!  Your amazing brain has flexible neural pathways that can be trained how to choose “better feeling thoughts.” 

This is true even if the same old thought patterns have been there for a long time.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen automatically.  It takes training and practice to create new neural pathways.  It’s like reprogramming the thought patterns in the brain.  If you want a new program to run, you have to uninstall the old program and install a new one.

Does Anxiety Run In Your Family?


anxietywords-dreamstime_xs_44344929Is anxiety in your genes?

Even though researchers have spent years looking for it, they have NOT found any anxiety gene. Yet, we often do see a pattern of anxiety running in a family. Does that mean your anxiety is genetic?

Nature or nurture?

This debate really isn’t a debate at all anymore. These days most researchers have come to believe that nurture actually influences nature in important ways.

If a certain gene is present, it does not guarantee that the gene will be expressed or become active. Even identical twins who share the same DNA do not express all of the same characteristics.

In psychiatry, it is now pretty broadly accepted that less than half of your personality type and temperament, such as being prone to anxiety, is due to genetics (nature). The rest is due to all sorts of other factors based on your life experiences (nurture).

What is Epigenetics?

dna spiral

Epigenetics is the growing field of scientific study which explains how factors in your living situation and life experiences can trump your genetic makeup. Your life circumstances and experiences can even cause modifications to your genes! So changes you make now can actually change your genetics for future generations. Big stuff.

Remember: they haven’t actually identified any anxiety gene. But even if there was such a thing as an anxiety gene, and even if you were born with a genetic propensity toward anxiety… epigenetics tells us that you likely won’t actually develop anxiety unless you have been exposed to something in your life trigger it.

Does Anxiety Run in Your Family?

Did your parents, grandparents or siblings have anxiety? Anxiety is a learned behavior. It is a way of thinking, feeling and reacting. Kids pick up on this automatically and subconsciously. Anxiety can “run in the family” that way.

This is very common.

When one of my clients was a child, her mom constantly worried when she left the house. Mom was excessively cautioning her to “be careful… don’t get hurt…don’t be careless…watch out for this or that…” My client recalls hating that as a child and telling herself she would never be like that. Yet, today as an adult she realizes she has become a worry wart.

Sometimes Anxiety is Not Genetic At All

Regardless of genetic factors, anxiety can develop at any time in response to situational factors and stressful life experiences. Particularly childhood experiences that were stressful, traumatic or chaotic can be predictors of whether kids will have anxiety as adults.

The Good News: You Have Control

Whether anxiety is genetic, or a learned response, or results from difficult life experiences, you are not stuck with it. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other holistic, non-medication tools and techniques are highly effective treatments all types of anxiety, worry, and panic attacks.

And that’s true regardless of whether there is a genetic component to it or not! So don’t worry about whether it’s in your genes. And don’t buy into the myth that you are stuck with it because it runs in your family.

The right anxiety treatment can free you from anxiety and maybe even change your genes!