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Vulnerability to post-traumatic stress disorder runs in families, study shows
Date:12/19/2008

Earthquakes have aftershocks not just the geological kind but the mental kind as well. Just like veterans of war, earthquake survivors can experience post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.

In 1988, a massive earthquake in Armenia killed 17,000 people and destroyed nearly half the town of Gumri. Now, in the first multigenerational study of its kind, UCLA researchers studying survivors of that catastrophe have discovered that vulnerability to PTSD, anxiety and depression runs in families.

Armen Goenjian, a research psychiatrist in the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, and colleagues studied 200 participants from 12 multigenerational families exposed to the earthquake. Participants suffered from varying degrees of the disorders. The researchers found that 41 percent of the variation of PTSD symptoms was due to genetic factors and that 61 percent of the variation of depressive symptoms and 66 percent of anxiety symptoms were attributable to genetics. Further, they found that a large proportion of the genetic liabilities for the disorders were shared.

The research appears in the December issue of the journal Psychiatric Genetics.

"This was a study of multigenerational family members parents and offspring, grandparents and grandchildren, siblings, and so on and we found that the genetic makeup of some of these individuals renders them more vulnerable to develop PTSD, anxiety and depressive symptoms," said Goenjian, a member of the UCLADuke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress and lead author of the study.

In addition, Goenjian noted, the study suggests that a large percentage of genes are shared between the disorders.

"That tracks with clinical experience," he said. "For example, in clinical practice, the therapist will often discover that patients who come in for treatment of depression have coexisting anxiety. Our findings show th
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Contact: Mark Wheeler
mwheeler@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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