Is PTSD Genetic?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has received a lot of media attention in recent years as more and more veterans are speaking out about their experiences after coming home from war zones. PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that develops as a result of exposure to one or more traumatic events, such as warfare, violence, natural disasters, abuse, etc.
There are many common post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, such as reoccurring flashbacks and hyper arousal, all of which can last for years after the trauma. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will suffer with PTSD, but many can’t seem to shake PTSD symptoms without professional help.
Although PTSD develops after a stressful event, there have been recent claims that this disorder is genetic, and may be passed down through genes. Scientists have identified specific genetic markers that relate the development of PTSD with hereditary factors. In this article we will analyse the claim that PTSD is genetic.
Is PTSD Genetic?
There has been evidence in recent years that there is a hereditary susceptibility to suffering from PTSD. There have been a number of interesting studies that analysed sets of twins; one such study looked at twins that were involved in combat during the Vietnam War. It was shown that the incidence of one identical twin sustaining PTSD after their twin suffered from it was greatly increased than if a non-identical twin suffered from PTSD. This is because identical twins have genetics that are nearly identical to one another.
Other Influential Factors of PTSD
While PTSD does seem to be genetic, there are many people who have immediate family that is affected by the ailment, but they themselves don’t get it. That is because other factors that simply genetics play a role in PTSD development. Some evidence has also shown that people with a hippocampus that is quiet small have a greater risk of developing PTSD after going through a traumatic incident.
While research is ongoing, there have been a few genetic factors that have been highlighted that influence whether PTSD gets passed down through genes. A lot of these studies focus on identifying which genes are parts of the formation process of horrific memories and the causes of PTSD. Once it is known how these types of memories are formed and stored, scientists will be better able to develop effective PTSD medications, and alleviate some of the common symptoms.
Some of the commonly seen links in these types of mental illness include:
- Stathmin: This is a protein which the brain uses to form memories in response to a traumatic event. Studies involving mice showed that those with lower levels of stathmin, or none at all, reacted better to traumatic experiences and did not have long term negative effects.
- Gastrin releasing peptide: GRP is a chemical that the brain releases when involved in an emotional event. Some studies involving mice have identified that GRP helps to keep fear responses under control, with smaller levels of this substance resulting in stronger and longer lasting memories of traumatic events.
- 5 HTTLPR Gene: A version of this gene has been discovered that helps to control serotonin levels (a chemical found in the brain which enhances mood levels), which may cause increased levels of fear response.
Recent studies and research have led to great advances in our knowledge of common post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, which may finally lead scientists to determine if PTSD is genetic, and to help to develop effective treatments. Through the use of brain imaging technology and genetics research, scientists will soon be able to locate exactly where in the brain PTSD originates and when it begins.
With continual evidence showing links between causes of PTSD and genetic factors, it is important that professionals identify methods whereby they can increase the protective factors for those with genetic predisposition to the disorder as well as preparing those going into a traumatic environment such as warfare.
Individuals that have been diagnosed with PTSD are likely searching for a cure; while there is no cure yet, doctors are holding medical trials in Los Angeles. For those interested, participation may involve getting PTSD medication not available anywhere else, as well as access to free medical care and compensation. To learn more about Los Angeles clinical trials for PTSD or other forms of medical issues, contact the Pacific Institute of Medical Research, which is an independent clinical research site specializing in psychiatry since 1982. Visit us online or call us at (310) 208-7144.