The influence of genetics on human behavior has long since been debated. This issue becomes even more controversial when discussing mental illness, especially trauma-based disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder has long been seen solely as a response to trauma. However, a recent study from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium has discovered a possible genetic origin as well.
Genetics Contribute to PTSD Risk?
Senior author Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, pointed to varying responses to trauma as one of the questions that provoked the study.
“We know from lots of data […] that many people exposed to even extreme traumatic events do not develop PTSD. Why is that? We believe that genetic variation is an important factor contributing to this risk or resilience.” Konen said.
The study examined genomic data from 11 worldwide studies, including 20,000 people. In addition to searching for genetic risk, researchers compared it with risk for other psychiatric conditions.
As suhc, the team found strong evidence of genetic risks for post-traumatic stress disorder. Then, the study also discovered a significant overlap between genetic risk for schizophrenia and PTSD. There was also, to a lesser degree, a link between bipolar disorders and major depressive disorders.
Women are known to be twice as likely to develop the disorder as men, and now, the study found a 29% heritability for European-American women. The men’s genetic risk was substantially lower.
Links between genetics and mental illness can lead to better ways of understanding and treating the conditions in the future. The study’s authors hope to conduct further research in order to determine biomarkers. These could be used to treat PTSD and genetically overlapping diseases like schizophrenia. Post-traumatic stress disorder can cause untold damage to individuals and society. An ability of effectively treating it in the future would be revolutionary.
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