Millions of people are affected by anxiety in which past experiences, brain chemistry, and genetics can play a factor. While there have been many studies on the genetics of depression, fewer have looked for genetic variants linked to anxiety. The largest genome-wide study of anxiety traits has discovered six genetic variants linked to anxiety disorder.
It was discovered by scientists in 2018 that there were at least 82 genes linked to depression. This gives an explanation of why 50% of cases are caused by genetics. The authors hoped this could lead to new depression treatments. Now, it is time for anxiety to have a genetic testing turn. This study was done by Yale University, the Veterans Affairs (VA) San Diego Healthcare System, the Veteran Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System and the University of California, San Diego. Researchers examined genetic and health data from 200,000 veterans of the United States Armed Forces to determine how genes, lifestyle, and military exposure can affect your health. Researchers looked at a continuous trait for anxiety based on the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 2-item scale (GAD-2) score. They used self-report of physician diagnosis of anxiety disorder as a secondary analysis.
Six genetic variants were found that were associated with higher risks of developing anxiety disorders. Five were found in white Americans and one was found in black Americans. The veterans’ data bank is valuable because of its racial diversity in the military. These variants were found on chromosomes 1, 3, 6, 7, and 20. One of the variants on chromosome 7 were correlated with higher recurrences of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. For African Americans, the researchers identified a gene linked with intestinal functions associated with anxiety. This gene variant does not exist outside the African American community.
The Future of This Study
By discovering these genetic variants, there can be more specific studies on each of these genes to see how they are linked with anxiety and other mental disorders. We can also learn more about how these genes operate. This can also lead to genetic testing to determine the early diagnosis of anxiety. People with anxiety will be able to have early access to therapy and be able to learn about positive coping and stress management techniques before symptoms start to develop. These genetic variants can be the start of early diagnosis of anxiety which means help will come to you at an early age before your symptoms come.
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