What with all the massively unsettling stuff going on in the world right now — recession, foreclosures, unemployment, and war, to name a few — it’s small wonder we’re not all running around with raging anxiety disorders. But there’s increasing evidence that true, debilitating anxiety, the kind that severely limits your life, is something that people are predisposed to, or not, from birth.
This fascinating, long article in the New York Times Magazine from yesterday describes how Harvard psychology professor Jerome Kagan followed subjects from babyhood through adulthood. He found that babies that were highly reactive to novelty — that is, that responded unhappily to new things — were much more likely to have anxiety disorder as teens and adults.
If that was your baby, though, don’t despair: Kagan and his colleagues found that the inborn temperament that is prone to anxiety can be expressed in lots of different ways. Some people might enjoy the hyper mindset that anxiety produces and experience it as alertness, while others might find that if they are busy they don’t feel the anxiety as much.
The whole article is really interesting and well-written, and far too long to do justice to here. If you’ve ever battled anxiety or even found yourself staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night with racing thoughts, it’s worth a read.