Legacy of Overprotective Parents: Anxiety

TORONTO, Sept. 17 (UPI) — Adult congenital heart condition patients with overprotective parents suffer greater “heart anxiety,” a Canadian researcher says.

One percent of infants have congenital heart defects, but more than 90 percent survive thanks to medical advances, Dr. Lephuong Ong of Orion Health Services in Vancouver says. However, as teens and adults, these patients often face mental health issues including anxiety, neurocognitive deficits, body image concerns and relationship difficulties.

These are made worse if, as a child, the patient has learned maladaptive coping behaviors — such as avoidance and fearful responding.

Ong and colleagues from University Health Network and York University in Toronto studied heart anxiety in a sub-sample of 192 adult congenital heart condition patients. Levels of heart-focused anxiety — a fear of heart-related symptoms and sensations — rose with increased levels of parental overprotection — defined as intrusion, excessive contact, infantilization and prevention of independent behavior.

The study, published online in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, finds while disease severity did increase anxiety levels, levels of parental overprotection did not vary with disease severity.

“Clinicians could consider providing recommended activity guidelines for parents and their children to reduce limitations on activities that are deemed medically appropriate, to encourage independence among adolescents and young adults with congenital heart defects,” Ong and colleagues say in a statement.

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