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They May Follow in Your Footsteps. Got the Guilts?

Major Depressive Disorder

I love my two children, as well as my sweetie of a granddaughter. Hmmm, so much that I’ve wondered over the years if – when – they’ll follow in my psych footsteps. Actually, used to feel downright guilty about it. Can you relate?

So what does that really mean for my children and grandchildren? Well, that’s a good question. In spite of my history of some pretty nasty panic and anxiety, they aren’t necessarily fated likewise.

Okay, summertime and the livin’s easy, right? ‘Ole Bill’s been spending some time with the aforementioned loved ones. And that means post-writing moments have been at a premium.

Sooo, I’ve turned to the Chipur archives and tidied-up a piece from five years ago. You’ll see my blogging was panic/anxiety exclusive in those days; however, be it a mood or anxiety situation, the point remains the same.

What say we get busy…

Yes, over the years I’ve pondered if my psych shtuff would present in my children – and grandchildren. Will they struggle as I did? And, yes, I’ve felt guilty about the potentialities. Curious (telling), don’t you think? I mean, why would I feel any measure of guilt, given I had nothing to do with my genetic composition and early-on environment?

Are you with me?

Is Genetics a Factor?

As we work toward unraveling, let’s first determine if genetics is even a factor here. Research indicates panic disorder occurs five times more often in monozygotic (“identical”) twins of panic sufferers than dizygotic. Relatives of panic disorder sufferers have a 10% increased risk for the disorder. And a panic disorder sufferer has a 78% probability of having a family history of panic disorder.

All of this translates into an estimated heritability as high as 40%. And let’s not forget that women are twice as likely to suffer from panic disorder. (Yes, I have a daughter and granddaughter. So it appears as though genetics is a legitimate factor.)

So what does that really mean for my children and grandchildren? Well, that’s a good question. In spite of my history of some pretty nasty panic and anxiety, they aren’t necessarily fated likewise. I mean, who knows how the genetic cards were dealt. And let’s not forget my children weren’t raised within my familial environment. That’s a huge consideration.

On the other hand, maybe they will follow in Dad’s anxious footsteps. I suppose if I had tons of money to blow I could call upon genetic science to truly tell the tale, but I’m very content in accepting and dealing with what may come.

The Power of Insight, Discretion, and Action

See, I believe in the power of insight, discretion, and well-considered action in dealing with such potentialities. In terms of insight, I’m suggesting we make sure we understand, embrace, and manage our own panic and anxiety situation before endeavoring to help our children.

What aid could we possibly offer if our own baggage isn’t checked? And should an anxiety issue befall our children the issue of insight must be impressed upon them. They need to come to know their own pathology, and who better to provide the introduction than us?

When I talk about discretion I’m emphasizing objectivity as we observe signs of atypical anxiety in our children. Given our desire to protect them from the hell we endured, our observations may be subject to misinterpretation, overreaction, and catastrophe. Remember, we do those well. We simply have to make sure we’re receiving and perceiving things as they truly are.

Finally, in mentioning well-considered action, which requires a good bit of discretion, I’m advocating really thinking through how we’ll approach our children with their genetic potential for pathological anxiety. Now, do I recommend providing advance notice? Not necessarily. That said, it’s something I gave my children with regard to my alcoholism and our familial prevalence of the disease. I felt it very much need-to-know information as they approached their teen years.

As it applies to panic and anxiety, I’m recommending “the talk” not take place until we’re darned sure legitimate signs of atypical anxiety are presenting. And well-considered action is an absolute must as we approach intervention strategy.

Now, a word of caution here. Given our experience with panic and anxiety, we may consider ourselves the best possible counselor for our children. Not so. Please seek the assistance of a licensed professional and allow him/her to lead the charge. By the way, when we begin to implement our intervention strategy, what better time to have our children come to know their disorder? And how cool would it be to have them manage their treatment planning? Come on, turn over the reins!

We’ll Close Now

Oops! So what about the issue of guilt with which I opened? The truth of the matter is guilt won’t do our children and grandchildren, or us, an ounce of good. It’s really a very selfish and counterproductive phenomenon. And, anyway, it’s our problem, not theirs.

Instead, it’s time to reach beyond ourselves and replace this self-defeating demon with the power of open-mindedness and positive action. Only then can we realistically expect something better for our offspring, void of our personal experience and identity…

Once again, those Chipur archives. Plenty of titles.