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Genetic links found for susceptibility to post-traumatic stress disorder

Posted on 04-01-15 in Mental Health

Genetic links found for susceptibility to post-traumatic stress disorder

A recent UCLA study has found genetic links that may explain why some are more prone to post-traumatic stress disorder than others. Such findings provide a better understanding for why some individuals who experience a specific trauma develop PTSD symptoms, while others who also underwent the same trauma do not. This may very well affect how this condition is diagnosed and treated in future cases. There are two gene variants in particular that point to this greater likelihood.

The study was headed by Dr. Armen Goenjian, who witnessed a 6.8-magnitude earthquake in Armenia in the late 1980s. Following the tragedy, Dr. Goenjian and his associates created two psychiatric clinics that treated survivors for more than 20 years. A number of Armenian families with longstanding histories in the region allowed their blood samples to be studied by Dr. Goenjian and his team at UCLA for such genetic susceptibilities.

Results revealed two gene variations, which are associated with depression. The genes, known as TPH-2 and COMT, are a significant aspect of cognitive functioning. TPH-2 has been shown to determine the level of serotonin that naturally occurs in the body. This hormone plays many roles in functioning, such as attentiveness, sleep patterns and emotional state of mind. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are often prescribed to increase serotonin levels in those who suffer from such trauma.

The second gene variant, COMT, which appears to lend a proclivity toward Post-traumatic stress disorder, diminishes dopamine. Dopamine regulates areas of the brain associated with pleasure and rewards. It also plays a role in human thoughts and feelings, allowing for a number of disorders to potentially occur if levels are unbalanced. While these genetic findings show a predisposition exists for PTSD, further research may allow for understanding of other genes that play a role.

Despite such findings, it goes without saying that there may be certain individuals suffering from PTSD who are reluctant to be prescribed certain medication to help them. Some may be reluctant because they are already self-medicating with controlled substances or alcohol which may dangerously interfere with prescribed medication. Sobriety is needed while taking SSRIs to maximize effectiveness and minimize risk.

Prescription of SSRIs are currently the only medication that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of PTSD. The goal of such prescriptions is to help minimize the symptoms the patient is experiencing. Eliminating the symptoms completely is not possible, given the severity of this disorder. Medication in conjunction with psychotherapy often helps to provide the most effective treatment.

The SSRIs will help to alleviate a number of these signs of trauma in the client:

  • self-destructive and reckless behavior
  • episodes of insomnia and disrupted focus
  • a distorted and extremely negative world view
  • repeatedly attributing blame for the trauma
  • avoidance of certain situations, as the sufferer may worry something will trigger the memories that haunt them
  • flashbacks and nightmare which may also occur.

Additionally, those with PTSD may worry that they will become addicted to these medications instead or that having to take them means they are a weaker person. These are myths that need to be dispelled.

Hopefully, those with PTSD can gain a better understanding of why their symptoms are occurring due to studies that aim for better treatment. A patient should not hesitate to seek clarity with doctors, therapists and other professionals, by asking questions and expressing any concerns throughout the treatment process. The sufferer of the disorder may first need to overcome certain addictions as part of their treatment plan, which is why dual diagnosis is essential.

Sovereign Health stays abreast of emerging medical studies and implementation modalities in order to provide the best possible care for our clients. To find out more about our PTSD treatment, please call 866-524-5504.

Written by Ryan McMaster, Sovereign Health Group writer