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Understanding Genetic Resistance to Anxiety

on Monday, 28 March 2016. Posted in Breaking News

Understanding Genetic Resistance to Anxiety

Anxiety is something that everyone experiences now and then in reaction to some external event but not everyone has a distinct psychological trigger for their anxiety. It has been well-known in the mental health community that certain people can experience anxiety in the absence of any external stress and they don't understand themselves what causes their feelings of anxiousness.

When people develop anxiety disorders they seek relief from psychotherapy but they often still deal with bouts of anxiety that is triggered by nothing in particular. Having an anxiety disorder can feel as though you are suffering from a mental state that has no origin or meaning which can be confusing and difficult for patients.This is one of the reasons psychoanalysts believe that anxiety is hereditary and there is new evidence to support the genetic explanation for anxious feelings.

Anandamide and Decreased Anxiety
New research has discovered that there is a certain genetic variation in the brain that can make some people inherently less anxious. People with these kinds of genetics are better able to forget any experiences that may have been fearful or unpleasant.

Studies have shown that this particular genetic mutation produces higher levels of anandamide which is known as the "bliss molecule" because it produces a feeling of extreme happiness. Anandamide is very similar in structure to THC or the chemical found in marijuana.

This is why anandamide in the brain can briefly produce a natural high. People with more anandamide in the brain than the average person are prone to be less anxious simply because of their genetic makeup.

Only about 20 percent of American adults have this mutation and this group of people is naturally less likely to become addicted to marijuana and other drugs mainly because they already experience the feelings of calm that certain drugs can produce.

Marijuana Use and Anxiety Disorders
With these findings it is no surprise that people struggling with chronic anxiety often turn to drugs like marijuana as a solution for their mental health problems. Many patients use cannabis daily so that they experience less nervousness and stress and find it easier to deal with life's disappointments.

In many cases though, frequent marijuana use can cause people to become cognitively dulled and can impair their ability to be alert or be productive. It can be difficult for people to overcome their anxiety if they are constantly trying to escape it.

In a certain sense, they must tolerate their anxiety in order to work through it and find more efficient ways to manage it. People use marijuana because it targets the endocannabinoid system which is so named because anandamide is like a naturally occurring cannabinoid.

The reason some people produce more of the chemical is because they have less of an enzyme called FAAH which deactivates anandamide. The mutation in the FAAH gene leads to more of the bliss molecule being released in the brain causing feelings of calm.

People with this genetic mutation tend to have less of a problem with addiction especially with marijuana, a drug that does not necessarily enhance their pleasure and can actually reduce it in many cases. Those with this particular genetic makeup tend to have half the rate of cannabis dependence than those with no mutant gene.

People that haven't won the lottery of genetics however, often use cannabis to reduce their anxiety. Studies show that 44 percent of Americans age 12 or older report having used marijuana at some point during their lives. The mutation increasing anandamide provides important insight into the chemical and genetic causes of issues like anxiety disorder and how they can be treated.

Photo Credit: BigStockPhoto

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