Family History and Anxiety #1 – A series of studies have been conducted examining the rate of anxiety in relatives of anxious probands.
In an early study, Noyes and colleagues (1978) compared the family history of 112 anxious participants to 110 controls that recently had surgery. First-degree relatives of those with anxiety showed an 18% morbidity risk for anxiety, compared to first-degree relatives of controls, which showed a 3% morbidity risk. Further, in families in which both parents were anxious, anxiety in offspring was more common.
Noyes and colleagues (1987) conducted a family study investigating the frequency of several anxiety disorders in the relatives of probands with different anxiety disorders. The results demonstrated higher rates of GAD among relatives of probands with GAD (n = 20) than in relatives of healthy control participants (n = 20). Rates of GAD were not higher among relatives of probands with panic disorder (n = 40) or of probands with agoraphobia (n = 40). The frequency of panic disorder was, however, higher among relatives of probands with panic disorder than control relatives, but not for GAD.
Thus, this study demonstrates specificity in the transmission of GAD and panic disorder.
Skre and colleagues (1994) conducted a family study investigating the familiar transmission of anxiety disorders and their relationship to mood and psychoactive substance use disorders. The study examined 33 individuals with an anxiety disorder and 76 first-degree relatives, 20 individuals with a mood disorder and 45 first-degree relatives, and six individuals with psychoactive substance use disorder and 12 first-degree relatives. Overall, more first degree relatives of those with an anxiety disorder had panic disorder and GAD, compared to relatives of those with mood disorders, and compared to relatives of those with psychoactive substance use disorders. Thus, while numbers of relatives for some disorders were quite small, the study suggests the specific transmission of anxiety disorders independent of mood and psychoactive substance use disorders.
Last and colleagues (1991) investigated the family history of first and second-degree relatives of children with anxiety disorders, child attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a healthy control group. Diagnostic interviews demonstrated an increase in the prevalence of anxiety disorders in first degree relatives of anxiety disordered children compared to relatives of ADHD children and of healthy control children. This study demonstrates familiarity of anxiety disorders, in comparison to behavioral (ADHD) and healthy control groups.
Kendler and colleagues (1997), in the National Comorbidity Survey, examined the family history of 5,877 respondents. Individuals were questioned about the history of five psychiatric disorders in their parents. These disorders included: 1) major depression; 2) generalized anxiety disorder; 3) antisocial personality disorder; 4) alcohol abuse/dependence; 5) drug abuse/dependence. The results demonstrated significant familial aggregation for each of the five disorders. When the presence of other disorders in the probands and the parent were controlled for, specific familial aggregation was still observed in major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and alcohol abuse/dependence, thus demonstrating independence in specificity compared to the other disorders (i.e. antisocial personality disorder, drug abuse/dependence).
- Kendler, K. S., Davis, C. G., & Kessler, R. C. (1997). The familial aggregation of common psychiatric and substance use disorders in the national comorbidity survey: A family history study. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 170, 6, 541.
- Last, C.G., Hersen, M., Kazdin, A., Orvaschel, H., & Perrin, S. (1991). Anxiety disorders in children and their families. Archives of General Psychiatry, 48, 928 – 934.
- Noyes, Jr. R., Clancy, J., Crowe, R. R., Hoenk, P. R., & Slymen, D. J. (1978). The familial prevalence of anxiety neurosis. Archives of General Psychiatry, 35, 9, 1057 – 1059.
- Noyes, Jr. R., Clarkson, C., Crowe, R. R., Yates, W. R., & McChesney, C. M. (1987). A family study of generalized anxiety disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 144, 1019 – 1024.
- Skre, L., Onstad, S., Edvardsen, J., Torgersen, J., & Kringlen, E. (1994). A family study of anxiety disorders: Familial transmission and relationship to mood disorder and psychoactive substance use disorder. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 90, 5, 366 – 374.