Genetic factors in anxiety disorders

Mod Trends Pharmacopsychiatry. 2013;29:24-46. doi: 10.1159/000351932. Epub 2013 Sep 20.


Presently available clinical genetic studies point to a considerable heritability of anxiety disorders (30-67%), with multiple vulnerability genes such as 5-HT1A, 5-HTT, MAO-A, COMT, CCK-B, ADORA2A, CRHR1, FKBP5, ACE, RGS2/7 and NPSR1 suggested by molecular genetic association studies. These genes have been shown to partially interact with each other as well as with environmental factors to shape the overall disease risk in a complex genetic model. Additionally, recent studies have pointed out the crucial role of epigenetic signatures such as methylation patterns in modifying environmental influences as well as in driving the functional impact of anxiety disorder risk genes. On a systems level, vulnerability genes of anxiety disorders seem to confer some of the disease risk via intermediate phenotypes like behavioral inhibition, anxiety sensitivity or several neurobiological traits such as increased startle reactivity or dysfunctional corticolimbic activity during emotional processing. Finally, first pharmaco- and psychotherapy-genetic studies provide evidence for certain risk genes to confer interindividual variability in response to a pharmacological or psychotherapeutic intervention in anxiety disorders. Genetic research in anxiety disorders will be discussed regarding its potential to foster innovative and individually tailored therapeutic approaches for patients with anxiety disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / genetics*
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genetic Linkage*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Risk Factors


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents