A new study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, sheds light as to the genetic influences that increase the risk of developing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following a traumatic event.
PTSD is a disorder causing feelings of anxiety and insomnia which usually occurs after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Rates of suicide, drug abuse and hospitalization increases in PTSD patients.
According to researchers from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, PTSD shares a similar genetic overlap to other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, for example.
In the study, researchers gathered data from over 20,000 participants, using genome-wide genomic data, to determine what role genetics play in PTSD patients.
“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. Why is that? We believe that genetic variation is an important factor contributing to this risk or resilience,” said Karestan Koenen, one of the lead researchers.
Men’s genetic risk of developing PTSD was much lower compared to women. Additionally, those who suffer from a severe mental disorder like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or clinical depression, are more likely to develop PTSD following a traumatic encounter, researchers suggest.
Although more needs to be done to learn about PTSD’s genetic factors, understanding these influences may help intervene shortly after a traumatic event.
“There are interventions effective in preventing PTSD shortly after a person experiences a traumatic event. But they are too resource-intensive to give to everyone. Knowing more about people’s genetic risk for PTSD may help clinicians target interventions more effectively and it helps us understand the underlying biological mechanisms,” the study concluded.