+
upworthy
Health

Scientists have just discovered the ‘anxiety gene’ and what turns it off

This could completely change how we treat anxiety and depression.

anxiety, anxiety gene, anxiety on rise

A young woman struggles with anxiety.

Living with an anxiety disorder can feel like a constant battle against an invisible enemy. People with anxiety disorders feel constant, excessive worry, restlessness and irrational fears, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing.

These overwhelming feelings cast a shadow over daily life and make it difficult to focus or enjoy simple pleasures. Anxiety disorders can also feel isolating, as the sufferer may struggle to communicate their feelings, making it hard to receive support and understanding.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common forms of mental illness and studies show that an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. Around half of all people who suffer from anxiety disorders go into remission at some point.


The interesting thing about such a common mental health problem is that the cause of anxiety disorders is currently unknown. But they’re believed to stem from a combination of factors that are developmental, psychological, environmental and genetic in nature.

However, all of that may soon change. Researchers at the University of Bristol have identified a gene responsible for driving anxiety symptoms in mice and learned how it can be suppressed. The research was first published in Nature Communications.

To gain deeper insight into the underlying causes of anxiety, scientists restrained the mice for 6 hours to elicit a stress response and then examined their brains at a molecular level.

The researchers realized that the stress response resulted in elevated levels of 5 microRNAs (miRNAs) in the amygdala, determining which genes in a cell are expressed and which are not. The amygdala is the brain's integrative center for motivation, emotions and emotional behavior.

Most importantly, the researchers noted that the gene Pgap2 caused behavior associated with anxiety and miR483-5p worked as a molecular “brake” to prevent the feelings of anxiety.

To put it simply, researchers have determined the gene that creates anxiety symptoms and the gene that puts a stop to them. This revelation could lead to new medications that target and suppress the specific cause of anxiety in the human brain. It may also completely change the current trial-and-error approach that doctors use to treat anxiety through medications.

“miRNAs are strategically poised to control complex neuropsychiatric conditions such as anxiety. But the molecular and cellular mechanisms they use to regulate stress resilience and susceptibility were until now, largely unknown,” Dr. Valentina Mosienko, one of the study’s lead authors said, according to Neuroscience News.

“The miR483-5p/Pgap2 pathway we identified in this study, activation of which exerts anxiety-reducing effects, offers a huge potential for the development of anti-anxiety therapies for complex psychiatric conditions in humans.”

The findings are exciting to many people who wouldn't mind having their anxiety gene turned off right about now.

The next step for researchers is to see if further research can be validated in humans.

This important development comes at a time when anxiety and depression are on the rise across the globe. According to the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a 25% rise in anxiety and depression worldwide.

The phrase that will shut down your passive-agressive coworker.

Dealing with passive-aggressive people, whether at work or in family life, can be very frustrating. It's like trying to solve a puzzle without all the pieces. Their indirect communication and subtle digs force you to guess what they mean, turning simple conversations into a minefield.

It's draining because you're always on edge, trying to decode hidden messages or intentions, which can create a tense atmosphere. It's tough to have to go through all the extra work when you're just trying to get along and keep things smooth.

It also means that passive-aggressive people can take shots at you that you can’t defend because they hide behind the plausible deniability that they were just being helpful.

Keep ReadingShow less
All images by Rebecca Cohen, used with permission.

Here’s a thought.

Self proclaimed feminist killjoy Rebecca Cohen is a cartoonist based in Berkeley, California.

Here’s what she has to say about her role as an artist taken from her Patreon page.

Keep ReadingShow less
True

After over a thousand years of peaceful relations, European semi-superpowers Sweden and Switzerland may finally address a lingering issue between the two nations. But the problem isn’t either country’s fault. The point is that the rest of the world can’t tell them apart. They simply don’t know their kroppkakor (Swedish potato dumpling) from their birchermüesli (a Swiss breakfast dish).

This confusion on the European continent has played out in countless ways.

Swedish people who move to the United States often complain of being introduced as Swiss. The New York Stock Exchange has fallen victim to the confusion, and a French hockey team once greeted their Swiss opponents, SC Bern, by playing the Swedish National Anthem and raising the Swedish flag.

Skämtar du med mig? (“Are you kidding me?” in Swedish)

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Heartwarming comics break down complex parenting issues with ease

Lunarbaboon comics tackle huge, important subjects with an effective, lighthearted touch that you can't help but smile at.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

Writing comics helped a father struggling with anxiety and depression.

Christopher Grady, a father and teacher from Toronto, was struggling with anxiety and depression. That's when he started drawing.

He describes his early cartoons and illustrations as a journal where he'd chronicle everyday moments from his life as a husband, elementary school teacher, and father to two kids.

"I needed a positive place to focus all my thoughts and found that when I was making comics I felt a little bit better," he says.

He began putting a few of his comics online, not expecting much of a response. But he quickly learned that people were connecting with his work in a deep way.

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

Australia is banning entry to anyone found guilty of domestic violence anywhere in the world

"Australia has no tolerance for perpetrators of violence against women and children." 👏👏👏


Australia is sending a strong message to domestic abusers worldwide: You're not welcome here.

Australia has recently broadened a migration law to bar any person who has been convicted of domestic violence anywhere in the world from getting a visa to enter the country. American R&B singer Chris Brown and boxing star Floyd Mayweather had been banned from the country in the past, following their domestic violence convictions. Now the ban applies to all foreign visitors or residents who have been found guilty of violence against women or children.

Even convicted domestic abusers who already have visas and are living in Australia can be kicked out under the new rule. The government is using the rule, which took effect on February 28, 2019 to send a message to domestic violence perpetrators.

Keep ReadingShow less

The Preussen Munster square off against the Würzburger Kickers

As a soccer match between German teams Preussen Munster and Würzburger Kickers went into its final minutes, a defender from the Kickers, 23-year-old Leroy Kwadwo, stopped to point out a problem in the stands.

A Munster fan was making monkey noises at Kwadwo, a black player of Ghanaian descent. It was a clearly racist heckling—an issue that has publicly plagued the international sport in various venues, even as recently as last week. But this time, the response from the crowd far outshined the racist in the stands.

Keep ReadingShow less