Genetics of Anxiety 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.

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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).

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Correspondence to Sandra M. Meier.

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Sandra M. Meier declares no conflict of interest.

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

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Meier, S.M., Deckert, J. Genetics of Anxiety Disorders. Curr Psychiatry Rep 21, 16 (2019).

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  • Anxiety
  • Genetic
  • Epigenetics
  • GWAS