The simple case of a few missing genes can severely hamper the lives of those living with William’s syndrome. Affecting 1 in 8000 births, this is a disorder that affects multiple systems in your body, resulting in a range of physical symptoms. More importantly, it can manifest as a problem that sees you trust almost anyone, without any discretion. And being “too honest,” “too trusting,” or “too innocent” leaves you open to all kinds of social challenges and vulnerable to predators. So are you too trusting?
Sometimes described as “the opposite of autism,” “Williams-Beuren Syndrome” or just “William’s Syndrome” is a rare form of genetic disorder that, among other things, can cause a person to be too trusting of others. The absence of certain genes brings on the neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts 1 in 8000 births.1
Warning Signs: Could You Have William’s Syndrome?
Not everyone who is trusting is necessarily dealing with a case of William’s syndrome. Because it is a multisystem disorder it can have far-reaching impact beyond just the brain.2 Here are some telltale signs that should give you an indication that you have the disorder.3
- Trusting strangers easily, being too friendly
- Some form of mild or even moderate intellectual disability
- Learning challenges
- Trouble concentrating and paying attention
- Being a “worry-wart”
- Difficulty with writing and/or drawing
- Fear of physical contact
- Fear of any jarring or loud sound
- Short stature and thin, long, and gaunt face
- Joint problems (limited movement)
- Seizures, muscle rigidity (due to high levels of calcium in blood)
- High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, in part due to narrowed heart blood vessels
- Dental issues
- Severe anxiety issues, phobias, or mood problems
- Constipation leading to diverticulosis
Challenges Of William’s Syndrome
A newborn with William’s syndrome begins to show early signs of the disorder with their poor muscle tone, and difficulty with thriving or gaining weight after birth. As the baby grows into a child, teenager, and adult, more symptoms crop up. Some more obvious than others, but each presenting a particular challenge.
As A Child
Parents have to be vigilant because children with William’s syndrome can easily fall victim to predators due to their trusting nature and because they are overly friendly. Unconditional trust, a hallmark of children with the syndrome, is potentially dangerous.
Between 60 and 90 percent of people with the syndrome have issues with mood regulation, and this may seem especially pronounced in children. Biologically triggered phobias tend to occur but you should see improvement with age.4
As A Teen
Teens face the risk of online predation, bullying, and exploitation. As one study found, adults with the syndrome are at high risk of online victimization on social networking sites like Facebook.5 With teenagers already being a high-risk group when it comes to online bullying, those with William’s syndrome are even more vulnerable.
Researchers found that as many as a third of those studied were happy to share their photo with a stranger online and might even set up to meet strangers they met on the internet at his/her home. They were also likely to hide these online relationships from their own parents.6
As An Adult
While children with the syndrome have parents, teachers, and caregivers watching out for their safety and protecting them, things change when you are an adult with this disorder.
Holding down a job becomes difficult due to anxiety issues and attention problems. Social discretion challenges and the tendency to trust everyone indiscriminately can pose issues with navigating workplace politics. Learning issues can also mean you are susceptible to workplace bullying or find people giving you “a hard time.” These seem to be common problems for those with William’s syndrome, as shown in a 2014 article in The Atlantic focused on workplace issues for adults with the disorder.7
Safety concerns on the personal front stemming from risky online behavior can make day-to-day life a challenge. According to one study, as many as 86 percent of all adults who have William’s syndrome log in to Facebook or similar sites every day unsupervised.8
Sound-triggered phobias are common among people with William’s. Even small life changes can trigger anxiety problems. Luckily, the wider prevalence of anxiety disorders in society means a multitude of treatment options are available.9
Besides these, health issues also start to crop up for adults living with the syndrome. Failure to notice the signs early can lead to complications or full-blown health problems that may put your life at risk.10
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for William’s syndrome yet. You can, however, limit some side effects and take precautions to protect yourself or a loved one who has the condition.11
- Check calcium levels regularly and avoid taking any extra vitamin D or calcium to lower risk of blood vessel narrowing and heart disease.
- Get physiotherapy to ease stiffness of the joints.
- Enrol for developmental therapy. Those with speech trouble could get help for this as well.
- Get special counseling and training on safe usage of the internet and social media.
- For children, special counseling will be needed on appropriate social behavior when it comes to both familiar and unfamiliar faces.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy is appropriate for children over 10. Collaborative Problem Solving can also help with mood issues.
- Physical activity is suggested by the William’s Syndrome Association as being extremely helpful for both children and adults, in easing anxiety, mood problems, and phobias.12
- Watch out for constipation problems that might be a precursor to diverticulosis.
- Regular health checks and special care in keeping up cardiovascular and endocrine health are important to improve life expectancy.13
References [ + ]
|1, 11.||↑||Williams syndrome, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|2.||↑||Williams syndrome, US Department of Health and Human Services.|
|3.||↑||Williams syndrome. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|4.||↑||Anxiety & Mood Problems in People with Williams Syndrome, William’s Syndrome Association.|
|5, 8.||↑||Lough, E., and M. H. Fisher. “Internet use and online safety in adults with Williams syndrome.” Journal of Intellectual Disability Research (2016).|
|6.||↑||Social media poses threat to people with intellectual disabilities,Science Daily.May 19, 2016.|
|7.||↑||What Happens When You Trust Too Much, The Atlantic.May 12, 2014.|
|9, 12.||↑||Anxiety & Mood Problems in People with Williams Syndrome, William’s Syndrome Association.|
|10, 13.||↑||Pober, Barbara R., and Colleen A. Morris. “Diagnosis and management of medical problems in adults with Williams–Beuren syndrome.” In American Journal of Medical Genetics Part C: Seminars in Medical Genetics, vol. 145, no. 3, pp. 280-290. Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company, 2007.|