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Are you an orchid or a dandelion? - Aging Well With Marjorie
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Are you an orchid or a dandelion?

Are you an orchid or a dandelion?

Very sensitive people – “orchids” –  may be more vulnerable to anxiety and depression but, given the right environment, they may also be more resilient and have as good a chance – or better – of happiness and success as so-called “dandelions”.

Orchids and dandelions

Dandelion in brickDavid Dodds is researching the orchid/dandelion hypothesis to understand the linkages among genes, behavior, and environment.

People with two short versions of the serotonin transporter gene are said to have the sensitive variants of the gene. They are the “orchids” who suffer in a poor environment but may thrive in a good environment. In contrast, dandelions grow and bloom anywhere, from a sidewalk crack to a greenhouse. These folks have two long versions of the gene (and there are also long/short gene combinations).

More responsive

BUT, there is an upside to having the sensitive variants, because “orchid” people are very responsive to their environment. Repeated, chronic stressors in childhood can make “orchids” more vulnerable to stress and depression, but a supportive environment can lead to more resilience, happiness, and success later in life.

Childhood support

OrchidsThis does not mean that very sensitive children need a super-duper home life (I can hear parents breathe a sigh of relief). Dodds sites a study of chronically abused children in which “one or two sources of support and consistency from adults” from outside the home such as a teacher, neighbour, or aunt, seen by the children “at least a couple of times a month” actually erased or tempered “80% of the combined risk of abuse and short versions of the serotonin transporter gene”.

Perhaps you can be a source of consistency and support for vulnerable children.

Reference: All in the Mind, a radio program out of Australia, has a podcast on this, with interviews of David Dodds, and Lone Frank who is author of My Beautiful Genome : Exposing Our Genetic Future, One Quirk at a Time.

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