Initial Clinical Evidence of Genetic Contributions to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

  • John H. Krystal
  • Linda M. Nagy
  • Ann Rasmusson
  • Andrew Morgan
  • Cheryl Cottrol
  • Steven M. Southwick
  • Dennis S. Charney
Part of the The Plenum Series on Stress and Coping book series (SSSO)


There are few topics in the field of traumatic stress studies that clinicians approach more ambivalently than considerations of genetic factors associated with vulnerability or resistance to traumatization. Historically, individuals suffering from combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) received diagnoses including “soldier’s heart” or “neurocirculatory asthenia,” and were frequently viewed as possessing characteristics that cast them in a disparaging light, such as “constitutional inferiority” and “lack of virility” (Campbell, 1918; see Krystal et al., 1989). Early studies implicated race as an important factor influencing the vulnerability to psychological stress (cf. Dunn, 1942). However, these studies attempted to use flawed clinical data to support widely held societal prejudices against minority groups, similar to early misguided efforts to characterize the inheritance of intelligence (Gould, 1981). Similarly, German authorities abused genetic arguments to justify denying the claims of Jewish survivors of the Nazi concentration camps for reparation for long-term psychiatric sequelae of their traumatization (Eisler, 1963/1964, 1967; Kestenberg, 1980). The relatively greater progress made in characterizing the environmental factors that influence subsequent stress response, such as the importance of early childhood trauma (Herman, 1992; Krystal, 1988) and the impact of parental traumatization on parent—child relationships (Danieli, 1980; Oliver, 1993; Rosenheck, 1986), further compounds concerns about overestimating genetic factors associated with PTSD.


Anxiety Disorder Panic Disorder Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Traumatic Stress Inescapable Shock 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • John H. Krystal
    • 1
  • Linda M. Nagy
    • 1
  • Ann Rasmusson
    • 1
  • Andrew Morgan
    • 1
  • Cheryl Cottrol
    • 1
  • Steven M. Southwick
  • Dennis S. Charney
    • 1
  1. 1.Clinical Neurosciences DivisionNational Center for PTSD, VA Connecticut Healthcare SystemWest HavenUSA

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