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Anxiety and depression can be impacted by the environment

(RxWiki News) Everyone has easy and hard times in their life that might cause feelings of anxiety or depression, but it’s not just genes that affect those moods. The environment has a part as well.

Researchers and experts are always looking for or matching genes to certain traits, but genes are not the only factor that affects who you are. A new study finds the environment has a huge part in who you are and how you feel.

"Don’t be ashamed of your past – it makes you, you."

Principal investigator, Kenneth Kendler, M.D., the director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, says “you are what you experience” and those experiences can affect your level of anxiety or depression.

The researchers examined data from nine different American and European studies which included over 12,000 identical twins who had symptoms of depression and/or anxiety throughout their lifetime. All participants were asked to complete reports about their personal symptoms of anxiety and depression within a five to six year period.

The results suggested that as twins aged, their predicted level of symptoms developed differently but after becoming an adult the symptoms stopped diverging. The researchers also found their environments explained the stability and predictable differences in their levels of anxiety and depression by middle adulthood.

Barbara Long, M.D., Ph.D., provides tips that might get you out of your funky environment:

  • Realize that nothing and no one can "make" you feel anything! You are not powerless. See your depression as a call to action.
  • Ask yourself what is discouraging or aggravating in your environment? Then find a way to change those factors
  • Is your current situation something that must be permanent (ex: a difficult coworker or boss)? If you can't change the situation, change yourself! Develop a perspective that can help you work around the problem, until there's an appropriate time to change it.
  • Get support from others so that the situation does not seem so all-important.
  • Stay balanced and get in tuned with the four Quadrants of life: Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual.
  • Tools that can help are: exercise, humor, and helping others.

The study is now published in the October issue of Psychological Science, which is a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

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Review Date: 
October 7, 2011