News ID: 191561
Published: 1239 GMT April 26, 2017

Genes make people more likely to suffer PTSD

Genes make people more likely to suffer PTSD

Scientists have identified how genes could increase someone's risk of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Researchers from Harvard University analyzed data on more than 20,000 people participating in 11 multi-ethnic studies around the world, reported.

They found a genetic variation that makes certain people particularly susceptible to lingering and crippling mental illness after trauma.

The risk, they said, appeared to be highest among women and those with a genetic risk for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia — doubling down on previous studies which have shown an overlap between PTSD and other mental illnesses.

The study — the first to table molecular genetic evidence on the subject — builds a strong case for the role of genetics in PTSD, which had been previously only documented on a smaller scale in studies of twins.

“We know from lots of data — from prisoners of war, people who have been in combat, and from rape victims — that many people exposed to even extreme traumatic events do not develop PTSD,” said senior author Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“Why is that? We believe that genetic variation is an important factor contributing to this risk or resilience.”

PTSD is a common and debilitating mental disorder that occurs after a traumatic event.

Symptoms include re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoiding event-related stimuli, and chronic hyperarousal.

In the US, one in nine women and one in 20 men experience PTSD at some point in their lives.

Koenen led a team in analyzing genome-wide genomic data on the 20,000 participants.

The researchers found that, among European American females, 29 percent of the risk for developing PTSD is influenced by genetic factors. That is the same percentage as with most other psychiatric disorders.

For men, genes were far less likely to be the cause of their PTSD.

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