Genetics of anxiety disorders - status quo and quo vadis

Curr Pharm Des. 2012;18(35):5691-8. doi: 10.2174/138161212803530781.


Clinical genetic studies propose a strong genetic contribution to the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders with a heritability of about 30-67%. The present review will give an overview of linkage studies, association studies and genome-wide association studies (GWAS) yielding support for some candidate genes. Additionally, first evidence for gene-environment interactions between candidate genes of anxiety disorders and stressful life events will be reported. On a systems level, neural activation correlates of anxiety-relevant emotional processing and neurophysiological measures such as peripheral sympathetic activity or the startle reflex have been shown to be potentially driven by vulnerability genes of anxiety disorders. Promising current approaches to further dissect the genetic underpinnings of anxiety disorders such as next generation sequencing, epigenetic analyses and pharmaco-/ psychotherapy-genetics will be presented. Genetic research in anxiety disorders will be discussed with respect to its potential benefit for future efforts to develop innovative and individually tailored therapeutic approaches for patients with anxiety disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology
  • Risk Factors