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The structure of genetic and environmental risk factors for phobias in women

  • N. Czajkowski (a1), K. S. Kendler (a2), K. Tambs (a1), E. Røysamb (a1) (a3) and T. Reichborn-Kjennerud (a1)...

Background

To explore the genetic and environmental factors underlying the co-occurrence of lifetime diagnoses of DSM-IV phobia.

Method

Female twins (n=1430) from the population-based Norwegian Institute of Public Health Twin Panel were assessed at personal interview for DSM-IV lifetime specific phobia, social phobia and agoraphobia. Comorbidity between the phobias were assessed by odds ratios (ORs) and polychoric correlations and multivariate twin models were fitted in Mx.

Results

Phenotypic correlations of lifetime phobia diagnoses ranged from 0.55 (agoraphobia and social phobia, OR 10.95) to 0.06 (animal phobia and social phobia, OR 1.21). In the best fitting twin model, which did not include shared environmental factors, heritability estimates for the phobias ranged from 0.43 to 0.63. Comorbidity between the phobias was accounted for by two common liability factors. The first loaded principally on animal phobia and did not influence the complex phobias (agoraphobia and social phobia). The second liability factor strongly influenced the complex phobias, but also loaded weak to moderate on all the other phobias. Blood phobia was mainly influenced by a specific genetic factor, which accounted for 51% of the total and 81% of the genetic variance.

Conclusions

Phobias are highly co-morbid and heritable. Our results suggest that the co-morbidity between phobias is best explained by two distinct liability factors rather than a single factor, as has been assumed in most previous multivariate twin analyses. One of these factors was specific to the simple phobias, while the other was more general. Blood phobia was mainly influenced by disorder specific genetic factors.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Dr N. Czajkowski, Division of Mental Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Box 4404, Nydalen N- 0403, Oslo, Norway. (Email: Nikolai.Czajkowski@fhi.no)

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Keywords

The structure of genetic and environmental risk factors for phobias in women

  • N. Czajkowski (a1), K. S. Kendler (a2), K. Tambs (a1), E. Røysamb (a1) (a3) and T. Reichborn-Kjennerud (a1)...

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