• >40 million Americans are suffering from anxiety disorders
  • Brain chemistry, genetic composition, and life experiences contribute to the development of anxiety disorder
  • A new study has revealed 6 different genetic variants linked to anxiety disorder

A recent research, which is claimed to the ‘largest genome-wide association study’ of anxiety traits, led by experts from two different universities, has identified six genetic variants associated with the development of anxiety disorders.

The findings of the study revealed that there is a significant genetic overlap between anxiety, major depressive disorder and several psychiatric comorbidities of the mental health condition.

"This is the richest set of results for the genetic basis of anxiety to date," Medscape Medical News quoted the study’s co-lead author Joel Gelernter, MD, of Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut. "There has been no explanation for the comorbidity of anxiety and depression and other mental health disorders, but here we have found specific, shared genetic risks," he had added.

The researchers from Yale University and the University of California, alongside experts from the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System and the Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System, have published their findings in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Anxiety disorder is one of the most prevalent mental health issues among Americans and it affects about 40 million adults in the country every year. Several factors including brain chemistry, genetic composition, and life experiences contribute to the development of anxiety disorder.

Previous researchers have pointed to the genetic basis of depression but very fewer ones have looked for genetic variants pertaining to anxiety disorders.

The genetic variants of anxiety determined in this study were found on chromosomes 1, 3, 6, 7 and 20. Amongst these, the variant found on chromosome 7 has been, previously, correlated with higher occurrences of other psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Another variant located on chromosome 6 was, previously, associated with estrogen receptor alpha, which encodes an estrogen receptor.

While this could explain why women are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders than men, the researchers said they identified the estrogen receptor variant in a veteran cohort conducted among men and that it needs to be enquired further.

The authors opined that their findings confirmed the genetic susceptibility to depression and to anxiety are very tightly associated. They are also glad that it is encouraging to see one of the key genes in the HPA axis (the corticotrophin-releasing hormone receptor 1) is implicated in anxiety.

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