Genetics of anxiety disorders

Alessandra Minelli, Elisabetta Maffioletti

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


There is considerable evidence that genetic determinants could play a role in the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders. Linkage studies, association studies and genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have identified genetic profiles associated with anxiety disorders such as panic disorder (PD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD). There is not one specific gene that causes anxiety, but combinations of genes seem to be at play. Furthermore, environmental factors, like stressful life events, may trigger an anxiety disorder more easily in people who have a genetic predisposition to the illness. However, the mechanisms are far from a complete understanding. To date, the most studied genetic variant is the serotonin transporter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR), which has been indicated as a risk factor for anxiety disorders, also affecting relative treatments. Other studies regarding the genetic susceptibility to anxiety disorders have focused on studying variants in neurotrophic genes (e.g., BDNF) and in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) related genes (e.g., FKBP5, CRHR1, NR3C1). In particular, candidate gene approach studies have investigated variants in genes related to HPA and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) pathways because of their central role in the adaptation of the organism to stress. Finally, investigations of susceptibility genes for anxiety disorders can be helped from the study of the genetic factors underlying personality traits, such as neuroticism and harm avoidance, that constitute risk factors for anxiety disorders. The identification of genetic variants involved in anxiety may have implications for the optimization of therapeutic interventions because they have been largely shown to represent predictors of poorer response.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnxiety Disorders: Risk Factors, Genetic Determinants and Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)9781631173936, 9781631173929
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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