Understanding the anxious mind

I've really never seen a more readable and comprehensive discussion of anxiety than this weekend's upcoming piece in the New York Times Magazine: Understanding the Anxious Mind.

In the constant badminton game between those who would see temperament as all nature or all nurture I find that people often want to put me on one side of the net just because they've placed themselves on the other. In fact, neither I nor others who point to temperament and biology as important in understanding eating disorders are interested in being on one side of the court. Nature and nurture are not opposing sides, nor do they need to be balanced in some way to be "fair."

Some things are primarily genetic, some primarily experiential, and the vast majority involve complex and interacting factors of both. I doubt there are many things we could say are only genetic or only experience.

Parenting matters. I wouldn't do the work I do if it didn't and in fact most of my work is about parents doing and not doing things. People get stuck on the finger-pointing and not the point. Parents need help in learning how to nurture and protect their dear children.

The point of not blaming parents for a child's innate temperament is not to make the parents feel better. The goal is for the parent to understand the child (and him or herself) and to respond in the best way possible. Parenting anxious kids, and parenting when we ourselves have anxious brains, is a topic we all need to discuss.


  1. excellent post - and when I have time I will go and read the article which I'm sure will be very pertinent to me and mine. However for now I'm going to reflect on whether the idioms of nets and courts are EVER suitable for the tricky game of mental health. Surely a labyrinth, ideally a meditative and healing one, would be more appropriate.

  2. Thanks for this post! I especially love what you had to say in the last paragraph. I second that emotion!

  3. Yes. Parenting matters. Alot.

  4. I read the whole article...my first daughter was a busy easily startled, bad sleeper, with frequent hiccups even before she was born. I thought to myself...mmm, this baby is going to be interesting to train into a routine. I was prepared for a fractious, high maintenance baby...and I certainly got one. She was strong, captivating, dreadful sleeper, if she was disturbed she never went back to sleep for many hours. I used relaxation techniques, tried every trick in the book. She was hard work for two years. I was always very good with babies and had quite a lot of experience, and I certainly used my knowledge. My father said it was because she was the first baby, but I knew it was her nature.
    This girl developed into a very bright, worrier, with a low self esteem, she had difficulty with indigestion, she was anxious and compulsive when under stress and obsessive about certain foods for weeks on end. At 14 she became a quiet restrictive anorexic, and her already slim, fast growing frame had no chance after even a couple of weeks of this behaviour. Her father and paternal grandmother and very similar to this personality type, but they are also compulsive exercisers. D#1 is doing well now and is at a good weight, although still has a way to go before she is free of ED thoughts.

    Daughter number two, a quiet baby, sleepy and sweet. Easy to put to sleep always, slept through the night from 6 weeks old, not very interested in school work, loves people, people love her....in other words...sooo easy. No compulsions with food or exercise, doesn't stress easily.
    Two completely different children with different coping skills has made for an interesting parenting journey so far, that is for sure.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts