GENETIC FACTORS IN ANXIETY AND ADDICTION
New research has found that there is a definite link between certain genes and the development of anxiety in individuals during their adolescence. The teen years are typically the period of time when anxiety symptoms start to developbecause the brain goes through some major changes as new genes are expressed and new hormones are introduced into the system.
Studies now have discovered something that was not understood in the past- that there is a specific gene which accounts for why anxiety is linked to those shifts. Other issues like addiction have proven to be more complex with scientists unable to find just one single addiction gene to identify a person's vulnerability to developing the problem. For those who develop a dual diagnosis, however, their anxiety can be linked to a specific genetic variation which in turn can be a major cause of their addiction.
Gene Variations and Anxiety
While multiple genes may make up a person's tendency toward addiction, there may be a certain gene that is instrumental in the development of anxiety as a person reaches adolescence. Recent research published by a professor of psychiatry in New York found that the gene which regulates the endocannabinoid system and controls enzyme receptors involved in regulating appetite, pain and mood tend to increase in adolescence so that most people develop a default gene.
Some people, about 20 percent carry a variant of the gene and their brain develops differently from the norm. According to the study, people with the default gene had stronger connections between their limbic systems and frontal brain area and they also reported experiencing less anxiety than the people with the gene variant. These new findings could be important in changing the approach to how we treat anxiety and how we understand the causes of serious anxiety disorders along their associated behaviors.
Treatment for Problems with a Genetic Factor
During the teen years about 25 percent of people develop an anxiety disorder and most are treated through some type of cognitive behavioral therapy combined with medications like SSRI antidepressants. If new research can be used to our advantage, however, it could help to optimize treatment for people suffering from anxiety due to specific gene variations. Recognizing a specific gene that could be at least partially responsible for the development of anxiety could help psychiatrists optimize their treatment of the problem.
Although the gene may be instrumental in anxiety issues, there are a number of different factors that can interact together to lead to a disorder. In the treatment of anxiety one has to consider biological, environment and genetic aspects of the problem and how each factor plays a role throughout the stages of its development. The new study can help us to understand how the specific genetic variation plays a role throughout each stage along with other factors.
This new study can also affect the understanding of addiction when it coincides with a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. Previous studies have not found one specific gene that can be identified in the development of an addiction. Not every addict carries the same gene and not everyone who carries a gene will exhibit traits of addiction.
It may be interesting to see how the new research regarding genes involved in developing anxiety will play a role in treatment for those with a dual diagnosis of both and anxiety and an addiction. Physicians will need to determine if the gene responsible for anxiety can also play a role in their addiction or if substance abuse develops because of other factors. Because dual disorders require specialized treatment, understanding the genetic influence to optimize care may be a more complex issue for certain individuals.