Growing Up with a Parent Who Has Anxiety

Growing up with a parent with anxiety

Being raised by a parent with anxiety disorder can be difficult. Anxiety is often characterized by constriction, preventing people from living fully and freely or always imagining the worst-case scenario. As a child, you may have experienced a lot of confusion for getting in trouble for something that seemed harmless or being the recipient of an angry outburst because of your parent’s anxiety.

It may not have been clear what was happening when you were younger, but it’s possible the effects of early childhood trauma are still lingering to this day. Coming to terms with these childhood experiences may require professional help for your own mental health issues. Learn more about parent anxiety disorder and how you can resolve past trauma.

What Is an Anxiety Disorder?

Although occasional anxiety is normal, an anxiety disorder involves recurring episodes of persistent anxiety, worry or fear about normal, everyday situations. These sudden instances of panic can interfere with a person’s daily activities and are difficult to control, resulting in avoiding certain places or situations that may trigger these feelings.

Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, social anxiety and specific phobias. It’s also possible to have more than one type of anxiety. Symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, tense or restless
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sense of impending doom, panic or danger
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Insomnia
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Difficulty controlling worry
  • Avoiding anxiety triggers

Anxiety manifests differently for everyone, and symptoms can vary depending on the anxiety disorder a person has.

How an Anxiety Disorder Can Affect the Parental Role

Growing up with an anxious parent can be extremely difficult on a child. As the most common class of mental disorders in the United States, anxiety affects nearly 1 in 5 adults, with women experiencing higher rates of diagnosis. If your mom has anxiety, this has likely affected you in many ways, depending on the type of anxiety disorder.

A parent suffering from generalized anxiety disorder might catastrophize every situation, causing their child to feel anxious about their every move. Examples include:

  • Other people aren’t trustworthy, so you’re better off alone
  • The world is dangerous
  • Unpredictability should always be feared
  • Don’t take risks because failure is worse than not trying at all
  • Everything needs to be under your control so you don’t get hurt

Children with parents who have social anxiety may grow up lacking the crucial social skills needed to navigate the world. If a parent refuses to step outside their comfort zone to engage in social activities with their child or seems detached, their child may begin to feel neglected, leading to their own mental health issues.

Long-Term Effects on Children of Having a Parent With Anxiety Disorder

Early childhood is imperative to biological, mental and emotional development. Since parents play an essential role in the lives of their children and helping them build self-esteem, social control and a sense of belonging, a parent with mental health problems may act as a stressor for children.

One study found that children raised by parents with poor mental health experience greater distress throughout adulthood than children who weren’t. Parents struggling with poor mental health may engage in negative parenting behaviors, cause increased dysfunction within the home or neglect the needs of their child. The children who grow up in this environment may experience long-lasting insecurity, distress and symptoms of anxiety or depression that carry into adulthood.

Another study suggests that anxious mother syndrome can double a child’s risk of experiencing hyperactivity in adolescence. The severity of hyperactivity symptoms depends on the level of anxiety a mother is dealing with. For instance, a child from a mother with moderate to high anxiety is twice as likely to show hyperactivity symptoms than a child from a mother with low anxiety levels. If you’re wondering how to deal with a mother with anxiety, resources are available to you.

How to Resolve Childhood Trauma

Unresolved childhood trauma can impact you as an adult. You may be worried that your trauma can ruin your relationships, happiness or professional areas of life, but that doesn’t have to be the case. A wide variety of professional treatment options are available, including counseling, exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication.

It’s also possible to develop healthy coping skills without professional help. The first step is to acknowledge and recognize your childhood trauma for what it is. Victims of childhood trauma may minimize the situation or blame themselves for what happened. Acknowledging the traumatic event and that you aren’t responsible for what happened can help with the healing process.

Taking care of your health and replacing bad habits with good ones can make it easier to cope with negative emotions associated with your trauma. For instance, regular exercise, a balanced diet, meditation, yoga, acupuncture and breathing exercises can all help you tune in to your body instead of being trapped in your head.

How Parents Can Mitigate Damage

If you’re a parent with anxiety, you don’t have to panic about causing your child long-lasting emotional trauma. Being cognizant of your disorder and making an active attempt to not pass harmful thought patterns on to your child can make a world of difference. The best way for a parent with anxiety disorder to avoid passing down their thoughts and fears is to attend therapy.

Therapy or counseling can help you understand why you think or respond a certain way to anxiety-inducing situations. Once you have that figured out, you can work on changing these thoughts or actions to better your own mental health and create a supportive and healthy environment for your child.

Professional Help Is Available

Whether you grew up with a parent who had anxiety or you’re a parent with anxiety yourself, Restore offers professional treatment that can help. Talk therapy can assist in breaking the cycle from your upbringing or help you identify and change your patterns if you’re a parent. Call us today to speak with a trained counselor and begin your mental health treatment journey.