PTSD Risk Genes and Hormones

Post traumatic stress disorder associated with serotonin genes and female hormone level

(RxWiki News) People are used to hearing about post-traumatic stress disorder in our country's defenders, but how many thought their child could suffer heading to college? 

After a devastating murder-suicide killing six at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in 2008, researchers found risks of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to be more severe in students harboring one particular genetic variation.

"Speak with a medical professional after a traumatic experience."

Before the tragic shooting, researchers coincidentally surveyed over a thousand women on campus regarding PTSD symptoms. The unfortunate circumstances provided a unique opportunity to gather these women's actual signs of PTSD, and a RAPID grant from the National Institute of Mental Health allowed follow-up surveys and saliva samples from 235 women.  

Kerry Ressler, M.D., Ph.D., of Emory University co-authored the study and believes that "the strength of this study is the availability of the same validated survey measure to assess PTSD symptoms prior to and after a shared acute traumatic event.”

Of the 204 college ladies interviewed, twenty-percent demonstrated symptoms of PTSD within the weeks and months proceeding the school tragedy. Also interesting, proximity to the deaths and risk gene presence were found to be equally predictive of PTSD likelihood.

Doctors used the saliva collected to determine the genotype coding for the serotonin transporters in our brain that returns the chemical messenger serotonin into the cell to recycle its usage.  

Originally available through the Archives of General Psychiatry, this study suggests that certain variations in these genes could help predict the risk of PTSD. 

Researchers note that these same unique genetic traits have previously been associated with an increased risk of other anxiety disorders and depression following stressful circumstances.  

Additionally, the first-line of defense in treating many anxiety and depressive disorders already includes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also known as antidepressants, which regulate these unruly levels of serotonin.  

The doctors and researchers involved in the study concluded that this particular serotonin transporter genotype could help predict who is likely to develop PTSD in traumatic situations similar to NIU where many victims share a devastating experience.

This study gives further reason for those witnessing traumatic events to talk with a counselor or health professional when experiencing distress thereafter.

Review Date: 
December 5, 2011