A DNA Check-Up Before Therapy

Anxiety disorder patients suggest genetics play a role in cognitive behavioral therapy acceptance

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) This is an exciting time when questions of the past become exposed. Many parents always wondered why one child may respond better to communication than others, and researchers are beginning to uncover fascinating discoveries.

Some children are genetically-wired to respond better to counseling therapies than other children. According to a recent study found in Molecular Psychiatry, anxiety disorder patients with specific genetics showed more receptiveness to cognitive behavioral therapy than others.

"Ask your doctor about how genetics affect treatment."

Lead author on the study, Thalia Eley, Ph.D.,King's College London, MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry in London, and colleagues engaged 359 children with anxiety disorders in various trials of cognitive-behavioral therapy, either in-person or over-the-telephone and most commonly within a group format.

The anxious and depressive symptoms of parents were noted at the start of the treatment only.

The group to consisted of forty-five percent with generalized anxiety disorders, twenty-one percent with social anxiety disorders, and eighteen percent with separation anxiety disorders. These children were on average, aged nine years old.

Judging from follow up, ranging three to twelve months after treatment, researchers found that a significantly higher percentage of children responded to cognitive behavior therapy who had particular genetics.

Patients who inherited twin alleles of a unique serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR) reported greater improvement in anxiety disorder symptoms.

Barbara Geller, MD., Associate Editor of Journal Watch Psychiatry explains the findings to be “consistent with data that individuals with the homozygous short-allele genotype show plasticity to environmental influences and thus, presumably, have a greater likelihood of response to non-drug interventions.“ 

Dr. Geller believes parent data would have improved insight, seeing as parental depression tends to affect their child’s behavior. Nonetheless, Dr. Geller states that “this study adds to consideration of 5-HTTLPR genotyping before a clinician selects the treatment modality for childhood anxiety disorders.”

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Review Date: 
December 6, 2011
Last Updated:
December 7, 2011