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Anxiety and Stress Disorders (Children)

Genetics and Anxiety

01/09/2002

Question:

My nine year old son is experiencing symptoms which have me confused. He gets angry and frustrated to tears quite frequently. He has been experiencing sharp chest pain, which I have had checked out, but no known reason for this. He suffers from frequent stomach aches and headaches. He has a physical next week, at which time I plan on discussing these symptoms, with his physician. As a child I suffered from the same symptoms, then developed migraines, and panic attacks. I have also gone through mild bouts of depression. I have been on Zoloft and it helped. I am not on medication now. I am concerned that he may have inherited this problem. Both of my sisters have depression disorders and take medication and my father also suffered from depression. Is this something I should be concerned about for my son? I want to see him smile more again.

Answer:

Both anxiety and depression are highly heritable disorders, but more importantly so are the personality traits which place individuals at risk for developing many of the symptoms that you mention. Often times anxiety can be translated by a child into stomach aches, headaches, and physical symptoms. I would concur that the best place to start is with his primary care physician but if symptoms persist as they apparently did in your own situation, I would seek a mental health evaluation for your child by a trained professional.

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Response by:

Floyd R Sallee, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati