New scientific evidence shows that anxiety can become embedded in a person's biology as early as in utero. As a longtime psychology professor shows, this discovery provides unprecedented insight into why some people are locked into a perpetual anxious state and how social practices can break the cycle.
As a result of environmental stress very early in life, a baby’s internal stress regulation system can become deregulated, resulting in a lifelong heightened state of anxiety. Relying on the results of studies in developmental psychology, neurology, epigenetics, and other fields, Keating (Psychology/Univ. of Michigan; editor: Nature and Nurture in Early Child Development, 2010, etc.) explores the causes of this biological typo, which he argues are directly linked to rising social inequality, especially in the United States. The author also posits that the consequences of a growing “stress epidemic” are myriad and profound, affecting everything from a person’s ability to form meaningful relationships to their predilection for heart disease and other medical conditions. Even more alarming is evidence that suggests epigenetic changes related to stress deregulation can be passed down to subsequent generations, exacerbating its effects on society as a whole. Despite all this, Keating is not grim. Without weighing down his narrative with medical jargon, he outlines evidence-based practices to help prevent or alleviate chronic anxiety at every stage of life. He also details the stark connection between socio-economic status and overall psychological and physical health—even if a country is considered wealthy and developed—and he offers insight regarding how government policies can enact powerful change in a population’s health and development. His cogent arguments add new heft to current political debates regarding social programs.
Much more than just an overview of how new DNA research has enlightened our understanding of anxiety, this is an empowering guide to combating the stress epidemic.