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

Authors

  • Clara López-Solà,

    1. Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute-IDIBELL, Department of Psychiatry, Hospital de Bellvitge, Barcelona, Spain
    2. Department of Clinical Sciences, Bellvitge Campus, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
    3. CIBERSAM (Centro de Investigación en Red de Salud Mental), Carlos III Health Institute, Madrid, Spain
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  • Leonardo F. Fontenelle,

    1. Programa de Ansiedade e Depressão, Instituto de Psiquiatria, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    2. Instituto D'Or de Pesquisa e Ensino (IDOR), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    3. Instituto de Saúde da Comunidade, Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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  • Pino Alonso,

    1. Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute-IDIBELL, Department of Psychiatry, Hospital de Bellvitge, Barcelona, Spain
    2. Department of Clinical Sciences, Bellvitge Campus, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
    3. CIBERSAM (Centro de Investigación en Red de Salud Mental), Carlos III Health Institute, Madrid, Spain
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  • Daniel Cuadras,

    1. Statistics Unit, Sant Joan de Deu Fundation, Esplugues de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain
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  • Debra L. Foley,

    1. Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, Centre for Youth Mental Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
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  • Christos Pantelis,

    1. Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre, Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
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  • Jesus Pujol,

    1. CRC-Hospital del Mar, CIBERSAM G21, Barcelona, Spain
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  • Murat Yücel,

    1. Monash Clinical and Imaging Neuroscience Laboratory, School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University, Clayton, Australia
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  • Narcís Cardoner,

    1. Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute-IDIBELL, Department of Psychiatry, Hospital de Bellvitge, Barcelona, Spain
    2. Department of Clinical Sciences, Bellvitge Campus, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
    3. CIBERSAM (Centro de Investigación en Red de Salud Mental), Carlos III Health Institute, Madrid, Spain
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  • Carles Soriano-Mas,

    1. Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute-IDIBELL, Department of Psychiatry, Hospital de Bellvitge, Barcelona, Spain
    2. CIBERSAM (Centro de Investigación en Red de Salud Mental), Carlos III Health Institute, Madrid, Spain
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  • José M. Menchón,

    1. Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute-IDIBELL, Department of Psychiatry, Hospital de Bellvitge, Barcelona, Spain
    2. Department of Clinical Sciences, Bellvitge Campus, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
    3. CIBERSAM (Centro de Investigación en Red de Salud Mental), Carlos III Health Institute, Madrid, Spain
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  • Ben J. Harrison

    Corresponding author
    1. Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre, Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
    • Correspondence to:

      A/Prof. Ben J. Harrison, Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre, The University of Melbourne Level 3, 161 Barry Street, Carlton, 3053 Melbourne, Australia.

      E-mail: habj@unimelb.edu.au

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  • Conflict of interest: None.

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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