It’s all over the news. Almost every news site, TV station and newspaper in Canada has reported on the recent findings in the latest edition of The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry: 15% of pre-schoolers are affected by high anxiety and depression.
According to the study by Montreal researchers, such children have mothers who are afflicted, and this is the second most important predictor of whether the child will suffer from the same problem.
The findings of the study raise the question: Are anxiety and depression passed down genetically, or learned?
Stats Canada recently reported that Anxiety is the most common mental health problem in Canada. The Statistics Canada Community Health Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing revealed that hundreds of thousands of Canadians suffer from anxiety disorders the same survey reported that Canadians struggle to find adequate treatment for their anxiety.
When I was a child, I was extremely depressed. For a while I bought into believing that I had a chemical imbalance and that my problem was genetic. But then I decided to consider some other perspectives. What if it wasn’t genetic, but learned? What if I learned this growing up and it was a thinking style I was continuing to repeat?
I wondered… if it was learned, it can be unlearned. When I was about 13 I decided that negativity and depression were something I learned, and that I was going to everything I could to change. And I did. If I had bought into the idea that they were genetic, I would still be stuck and suffering, years later.
What most people are not aware of is that both anxiety and depression have a structure. You have to do certain things with your mind in order to experience anxiety and depression. I see them as results we produce with our minds, and not conditions we suffer from.
The latest science supports this view. According to Cognitive-Behavioural Psychology, our emotions are the result of our thoughts. How we feel stems from how we think. In “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy,” a book which clearly explains the cognitive model of psychology, Dr. David D. Burns, an eminent psychiatrist and expert in mood disorders explains; “The first principle of cognitive therapy is that all your moods are created by your ‘cognitions’ or thoughts. A cognition refers to the way you look at things –your perceptions, mental attitudes, and beliefs. It includes the way you interpret things- what you say about someone or something to yourself. You feel the way you do right now because of the thoughts you are thinking at this moment.”
In order to conquer my own demons, I set out to learn how the mind worked. Now, using what I learned, I am able to guide a client suffering from total panic to perfect Zen. In seeing the mind as a system and accepting that emotions result from thoughts, I have shown clients how their mind worked to produce anxiety and how to reprogram their minds to produce something else. I have yet to find a case of anxiety I could not completely resolve in 12 hours. I am so convinced that anxiety is curable that I make the following claim to everyone I meet, speak to or present for: “I Will Completely Eliminate Your Anxiety and Panic Attacks for Good, 100% GUARANTEED Even if Nothing Else Has Worked for You.“
If we see depression and anxiety as genetic, we doom ourselves, and our children, to taking medication, medication that in my view, treats the symptoms and not the cause. Not long ago, a woman suffering from depression and anxiety came to see me. She said her problem was the results of a chemical imbalance, but she also said she was very negative. So I said, “You know, you can take all the medication you want and if you’re negative you won’t be any happier.” Her response? “I hate it when you’re right.”
Just today I was reading an article in the Montreal Gazette about research being done on rats to understand human gambling… and develop a drug to treat those with gambling addictions. In our society, we want to solve everything with a pill. If you have a headache, take a pill- no need to bother to find out why you might have a headache. If your child has a learning disability, give him ritalin. If you are overweight, take a pill. The same is true in the case of anxiety and depression. But what if not every solution comes in a pill?
If parents do not resolve their own mental and emotional challenges, our kids are in trouble. Children are voracious learning machines, just think of how effortlessly they learn to walk and talk. If their role models are aggressive, anxious and depressed, how can we expect them to grow up and learn confidence, peace and empowerment?
You can read more about the structure of anxiety in my article, From Total Panic to Perfect Zen, which will be published in the October edition of the Quebec magazine Vitalité.