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Why are we the way we are? Why do some of us find it impossible to calm a quick temper or to shake anxiety? The debate has always been divided between nature and nurture, but as psychology professor Daniel P. Keating demonstrates in Born Anxious, new DNA science points to a third factor that allows us to inherit both the nature and the nurture of previous generations – with significant consequences.
Born Anxious introduces a new word into our lexicon: "methylated". It's short for "epigenetic methylation", and it offers insight into behaviours we have all observed but never understood – the boss who goes ballistic at the slightest error; the infant who can't be calmed; the husband who can't fall asleep at night. In each case, because of an exposure to environmental adversity in utero or during the first year of life, a key stress system has been welded into the "on" position by the methylation process, predisposing the child's body to excessive levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The effect: lifelong, unrelenting stress and its consequences – from school failure to nerve-wracking relationships to early death.
Early adversity happens in all levels of society but as income gaps widen, social inequality and fear of the future have become the new predators; in Born Anxious, Daniel P. Keating demonstrates how we can finally break the cycle.
Daniel P. Keating is a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and received his PhD at Johns Hopkins. Keating has conducted research at leading North American universities; at Berlin's Max Planck Institute; and with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, where he was a fellow for two decades and led the program in human development. He focuses on developmental differences: cognitive, social, emotional, and in physical and mental health. He resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
"Much more than just an overview of how new DNA research has enlightened our understanding of anxiety, this is an empowering guide to combating the stress epidemic."
– Kirkus Reviews
"Every once in a while a book comes along that draws us into the often obscure world of science, and takes us on a moving journey of understanding. Born Anxious is one of these special books, lucidly written and easy to grasp. On one level it's the biological story of the underpinnings of stress. But don't be fooled. This is a human story. For the millions of people who have lived under a cloud of stress and anxiety they could neither escape nor control, this book will finally bring peace and understanding. Everyone should read it."
– Susan Cain, author of Quiet
"This book tells the story of the scientific work that will likely lead to a new understanding of why some of us feel as if our entire lives have been compromised by high levels of stress. But what makes it so important is that it also shows, indeed forcefully argues, that we do not need to be ruled by our biology. It won't be easy, but there are things that we as parents, as individuals, and as a society can do to take control of our psychological lives. This is an empowering book that anyone who has ever dealt with stress – in themselves, their families, friends, even those they work with, should read and consider."
– Jeffrey M. Schwartz MD, Research Psychiatrist, UCLA, author of the bestselling books Brain Lock, The Mind and the Brain, and You Are Not Your Brain
"In this period in human history when many are "stressed out", Keating tells a vitally important story of how inequality gets "under the skin" and affects physical and mental health over the life course, starting very early in life. And he provides very useful references to interventions for children, teens and adults."
– Bruce McEwen, PhD, Alfred E. Mirsky Professor of Neuroscience at Rockefeller University, and recipient of the Gold Medal Award from the Society for Biological Psychiatry. Author of The End of Stress As We Know It and The Hostage Brain