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Is there a genetic continuum between anxiety and depression?
Anxiety disorders are amongst the most common psychiatric disorders with a lifetime prevalence ranging up to 25%. Highest comorbidity with prevalence rates up to 60% could be shown with depressive disorders. Currently there is no evidence whether depression, anxious depression and anxiety disorders could represent genetically distinct subgroups or share the same set of polymorphisms in candidate genes. Due to pathophysiologically consistent dysregulations of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal- (HPA) axis in both disorders this system is considered a strong candidate.
In order to investigate the presence of genetic differences and similarities between depression and anxiety, we genotyped SNPs in 13 candidate genes in 280 depressed patients, 150 patients with anxiety disorders and 339 controls. Preliminary data reveals a case-control association, when the cases were analyzed as one group. When subgrouping patients according to the severity of their anxiety related symptoms the association is even stronger.
To investigate whether there is a genetic overlap between patients with anxiety disorders and anxious depression, additional genotyping in patients with anxiety disorders is currently performed.