Home Doctor NewsMental health Anxiety and sadness are connected to childhood phobias: Study

Anxiety and sadness are connected to childhood phobias: Study

by Vaishali Sharma

A recent imaging study lead by a professor at The University of Texas at Dallas discovered early risk variables associated with children’s temperament and a neural process that may decide whether an individual develops depression and anxiety during adolescence and early adulthood.
The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, followed a group of 165 people from the age of four months to the age of 26 between 1989 and 1993. Dr. Alva Tang, assistant professor of psychology in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and the study’s corresponding author, discovered that people who are more inhibited in early childhood and who also do not respond typically to potential rewards as adolescents are more likely to develop depression later in life.

Tang, who completed the research at the University of Maryland, College Park before joining UT Dallas in August, said, “The findings highlight diverse pathways in the brain and tie them to who is at greater risk for developing certain mental health concerns.” “These findings might help to guide the development of prevention-oriented therapies that are personalised to the individual.”
When newborns are introduced to new items, people, or circumstances, some react favourably and approach them without fear, while others react with caution or avoidance. This distinction distinguishes between unconstrained and inhibited behaviour.
“We know that inhibited youngsters are more likely to have anxiety problems later in life, particularly social anxiety, which starts in late childhood through adolescent,” Tang explained.

“Less is known about depression, which often begins in young adulthood. However, we do know that persons who have had an anxiety problem are 50% to 60% more likely to develop depression later in life, so inhibited youngsters should also be at a higher risk for depression.”
Tang’s study is notable for its assessment of the patients’ early temperamental hazards as well as the length of time they were observed.
“We need to follow patients for decades to establish any relationship with increases in depressive symptoms over time because full-blown disorders normally do not arise until young adulthood,” she added.
The patients were classified as either constrained or uninhibited as young children.
They performed functional MRIs as teens while performing a test to evaluate their brains’ reaction to expecting rewards – in this example, aiming to earn money.
“We looked at the ventral striatum, a brain area extensively characterised in terms of understanding adult depression, to determine if it’s linked to dysfunctional processing in the brain’s reward systems,” Tang explained.
In response to possible monetary benefits, some research participants displayed a muted response in this brain area.
The researchers discovered that the link between inhibition from 14 to 24 months of age and increased depression symptoms from 15 to 26 years of age was only apparent in individuals who also had reduced activity in the ventral striatum as teenagers.
There was no such connection with anxiety.
“We discovered that behavioural inhibition was linked to the severity of depression symptoms in adulthood.” This supports the claim that while this temperament is linked to anxiety development in adolescence, it is more strongly linked to depression in adulthood. “However, not all restricted children become anxious or depressed,” Tang explained. “It was the inhibited youngsters with decreased striatal activity who were more prone to develop depressive in young adulthood.”
Tang explained that her previous study linked anxiety to neural networks and processes that serve attention and executive functions, but her present work focuses on reward and motivational centres in the brain that are linked to depression.
“This work is novel in that it can distinguish distinct types of brain correlates for these various situations,” she explained.
Tang stated that there are currently programmes available for socially anxious and behaviorally inhibited youngsters that enhance social and cognitive abilities. Additional therapies for these children might address motivational impairments by teaching them how to deliberately create environments in which they can be socially engaged with peers and seek out pleasant experiences.
“This may lessen the probability of getting depression as a result of being socially disconnected or losing out on possibilities for pleasurable experiences,” she said.
She suggested that future research may look at the effectiveness of programmes that target faulty reward processing in anxious teens in lowering the likelihood of later depression.
Anxiety and depression are complicated illnesses that can be triggered by a variety of reasons, including genetic, environmental, and other variables, according to Tang.
“Here, we offer compelling evidence that both early temperamental risk factors and maladaptive neurocognitive reward processing are implicated in contributing to the onset of depression,” she continued.

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