Prevalence and heritability of obsessive-compulsive spectrum and anxiety disorder symptoms: A survey of the Australian Twin Registry

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Abstract

While past twin studies indicate moderate levels of heritability of “obsessive-compulsive related” and anxiety disorder symptoms, no single study has reported such estimates in the same twin population nor examined potential genetic sex differences. We assessed symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, hoarding disorder, hypochondriasis, panic disorder, social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder in 2,495 adult twins (1,468 female). Prevalence estimates for the corresponding symptom measures were determined using empirically derived cut-off scores. Twin resemblance was assessed by Pearson correlations and biometrical model-fitting analyses, incorporating sex-specific effects, using OpenMx. Prevalence estimates ranged from 1.6% in the symptoms of generalized anxiety to 16.9% for social phobia. Female twins demonstrated significantly higher prevalence rates across all domains with the exception of obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Additive genetic factors accounted for a moderate proportion of the total liability to each symptom domain. Evidence suggesting qualitative genetic sex differences (i.e., distinct genetic influences between genders) was observed for body dysmorphic concern and panic symptoms, while quantitative differences were observed for hoarding and social phobia symptoms, indicating stronger heritability in females. Novel findings in this study include the observation of probable genetic sex differences in liability towards hoarding symptoms and dysmorphic concern, as well as the lack of such differences in hypochondriasis. The trend towards qualitative sex differences in panic symptoms has some intuitive appeal with regard to biological-experimental models of panic. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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