Genetic Links to Psychiatric Disorders

Twins study finds four sets of risk factors for most mental illnesses

FRIDAY, Sept. 26, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Most forms of common psychiatric and drug-abuse disorders can be traced to a small number of genetic risk factors.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) researchers report that finding in the September issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

These genetic factors also influence the combination of disorders that may affect the same person, the study found.

Researchers conducted interviews, some ranging over a period of nine years, with 5,600 male and female twins from same-sex pairs registered with VCU's Mid-Atlantic Twin Registry.

The researchers identified four major sets of genetic risk factors for the seven most common psychiatric and drug-abuse disorders, including major depression, anxiety, phobia, drug dependence and abuse, alcohol dependence, adult antisocial behavior, and conduct disorder.

"Most common psychiatric and drug-abuse disorders are affected by two broad sets of genetic risk factors," lead author and psychiatric geneticist Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler, says in a news statement.

"One set of those genetic factors impacts on the risk for that group of syndromes that causes people to be miserable -- those 'internalizing' syndromes such as major depression and anxiety disorders," Kendler says.

"The other set of genetic factors impacts on that group of syndromes that causes people to make others around them miserable. We call these 'externalizing' disorders, including such conditions as antisocial personality and drug dependence," he says.

The data didn't show any differences in the pattern of risk factors for men and women, even though the two groups do differ in terms of their rates of developing different kinds of psychiatric and drug-abuse disorders. Women are more prone to internalizing disorders while men are more likely to suffer externalizing disorders.

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SOURCE: Virginia Commonwealth University news release
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