PTSD and genetics

Yalies find genetic link to PTSD


Yale researchers have discovered a strong link between genes and the likelihood that someone will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Pingxing Xie GRD ’13 and Yale School of Medicine professor Joel Gelernter ’79 found that a particular form of a gene found on chromosome 17 made some people more likely to develop PTSD. They published their results in the November issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

“I’m interested in working out what the important genetic effects are for PTSD,” Gelernter said. “Our goal is to figure out what makes some people more vulnerable to PTSD than other people.”

Eight percent of Americans have been diagnosed with PTSD, while 40 to 70 percent of Americans have experienced a traumatic event. Gelernter and Xie found that individuals were more likely to develop PTSD if they had experienced trauma both as a child and as an adult.

Gelernter said he hoped his team’s research and similar studies will lead to better medications and gene-based prevention and treatment for people with PTSD . Medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have already been used to treat some PTSD symptoms, Gelernter said.

Funding for the research came from the National Institutes of Health and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We have to remember that we are not treating diseases with this drug. We are using a neuropharmacologic agent to produce a specific effect.” –Psychiatrist E.H. Parsons at a 1955 meeting in Philadelphia on chlorpromazine.  (Source: Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America by Robert Whitaker)

If there’s a way to cure PTSD then I’m all for it but what I’m tired of reading about are studies that focus on treating the symptoms. No matter how well they think this data might help them fine tune a PTSD sufferer’s medication, the medication is only used to treat the symptom and not the cause.  Scientists can tear apart DNA and isolate the PTSD gene but it’s not going to prevent the trauma that can cause PTSD because one can’t always predict the trauma.

Not terribly surprising that this study was funded in part by the VA since all they know how to do is prescribe more pills. My dad drank because he suffered from PTSD and lacked the tools and resources to deal with it in a constructive way. He knew drinking was a hard and fast way to die, in fact, it was the biggest contributing factor to his death. He wanted the VA to help him treat PTSD, not its symptoms. But he didn’t want to take the obscene amount of meds because he was afraid to end up like veterans he encountered at the VA: emotionally and intellectually neutered by drugs like chlorpromazine aka thorazine and the thorazine shuffle.

Losing his mind was his greatest fear. Yet his mind was his greatest enemy- the anxiety, the flashbacks, and the insomnia; his mind was continuously fighting the Vietnam War. He wanted it all to stop so he chose alcohol as the lesser of the two evils.  But he struggled with that decision and its effects since he knew he wouldn’t win this war.