Genetics of Anxiety Disorders

  • Sandra M. MeierEmail author
  • Jürgen Deckert
Genetic Disorders (F Goes, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Genetic Disorders


Purpose of Review

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental disorders with a lifetime prevalence of over 20%. Clinically, anxiety is not thought of as a homogenous disorder, but is subclassified in generalized, panic, and phobic anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are moderately heritable. This review will explore recent genetic and epigenetic approaches to anxiety disorders explaining differential susceptibility risk.

Recent Findings

A substantial portion of the variance in susceptibility risk can be explained by differential inherited and acquired genetic and epigenetic risk. Available data suggest that anxiety disorders are highly complex and polygenic. Despite the substantial progress in genetic research over the last decade, only few risk loci for anxiety disorders have been identified so far.


This review will cover recent findings from large-scale genome-wide association studies as well as newer epigenome-wide studies. Progress in this area will likely require analysis of much larger sample sizes than have been reported to date. We discuss prospects for clinical translation of genetic findings and future directions for research.


Anxiety Genetic Epigenetics GWAS 



The work described in this article has been generously funded by the Canada Research Chairs Program and the DFG-funded Comprehensive Research Center TR 58 on Fear, Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders (Project Z02).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Sandra M. Meier declares no conflict of interest.

Jürgen Deckert reports grants from P1Vital, Biovariance, DFG, and BMBF.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Child and Adolescent Mental Health Centre–Mental Health Services Capital RegionCopenhagen RegionDenmark
  3. 3.Psychosis Research UnitAarhus University HospitalRisskovDenmark
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Center of Mental HealthUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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