PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is usually associated with war veterans, or persons that have undergone tragic accidents or been the victims of violent crime. However, while some such persons succumb to PTSD, others endure utterly horrific events and show no sign of being affected by PTSD, and now scientists believe they have discovered why.
A new report published in Molecular Psychiatry suggests that the likelihood of developing PTSD could be anchored in our DNA. The lead author of the study, Karestan Koenon, a professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that her interest in PTSD started because it was unknown why some individuals were so susceptible to PTSD while others are so resistant.
While some of us might have an occasional nightmare or bad thought about a traumatic event, or series of events, PTSD is not a passive thing. For those that suffer from PTSD, the nightmares and flashbacks can go on for years and even decades. PTSD does not only involve the aforementioned symptoms, it also tends to dull PTSD sufferers’ attentions to those closest to them and to the outside world in general.
The recent PTSD study to determine whether the illness can be passed down from parent to child was conducted by researchers combining data from 11 studies into a single pool to explore the genetic risk for PTSD among more than 20,000 people. Additionally, the researchers examined the pools to determine certain overlap conditions between PTSD and other genetic conditions, such as schizophrenia. The researchers used common genetic markers when examining the subjects, and they found evidence that points to the possibility that the susceptibility of PTSD is in effect a genetic condition.
But the researchers admit that there is much more research to be done into PTSD.
Those studying the possibility that PTSD is genetic say that the next study will include over 75,000 subjects.
From the initial PTSD study, there were some key findings, however. For instance, it was discovered that for almost a third of “European-American” females could be linked to heredity. Additionally, it was calculated that females are twice as likely as males to develop PTSD after a traumatic event. Researchers also looked at race as a factor in the PTSD study, but in this area, little light was shed. While almost half of the PTSD study’s subjects were African-Americans, the researchers thus far have found little difference in PTSD genetic factors between African-American and white subjects.
Another reason why more PTSD studies are necessary is the lack of diversity or commonality between the occupations of the male and female subjects. While a large portion of the men that participated in the PTSD study were in the military, very few of the women had served. The question now is whether there is a significant difference between genetic markers for PTSD between civilians and those who have served, or is it a significant difference between men and women?
So, if there is a genetic predisposition behind PTSD, will that affect how the disorder is treated in the future? Some of the Harvard scientists that worked on the study believe that if a genetic predisposition is discovered, than eventually there might be a pharmaceutical way developed to target PTSD directly. In effect, they could treat the actual “physical” problem rather than treating the symptoms of the disorder.
Currently, the treatments for PTSD center around a number of cognitive behavior therapies. At present, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs recommends Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure Therapy to deal with the effects of PTSD.
An estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will have to cope with PTSD at some point in their lives.
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