Are Genetics or Infections Linked to Anxiety?
Research evidence points to genetics as a factor in the origin of certain anxiety disorders. Scientists have recently discovered a gene that influences fearfulness in mice. And studies of twins have found that genes play a role in panic disorder and social phobia (social anxiety disorder).
Although genes help determine whether someone will develop an anxiety disorder, heredity alone can't explain what goes awry; experience also plays a part. In PTSD, for example, the trauma is the experience that triggers the anxiety disorder -- but genetic factors may help explain why only certain individuals exposed to similar traumatic events develop full-blown PTSD. Researchers are honing in on the amount of influence genetics and experience play in each of the anxiety disorders. It is hoped that this information will yield clues on how to prevent and better treat anxiety disorders.
Studies of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in young people have shown that the experience of having a streptococcal bacterial infection may lead to the development of crippling obsessions and compulsions. It appears that a genetic vulnerability, coupled with rheumatic fever, is associated with some cases of OCD. Preliminary evidence indicates that special treatment for the infection improves or cures the OCD.