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Twin Res. 2003 Jun;6(3):218-26.

A high risk twin study of combat-related PTSD comorbidity.

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Women's Health Sciences Division (116B-3), National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System, MA 02130, USA.


Combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is highly comorbid with other mental disorders. However, the nature of the relationship between PTSD and other mental disorders remains unclear. A discordant high-risk twin design was used on data from a sub-sample of the male-male twin pair members of the Vietnam Era Twin Registry to examine whether patterns of comorbidity are consistent with a psychopathological response to combat exposure or reflect familial vulnerability to psychopathology. Mental disorders were assessed via the Mental Health Diagnostic Interview Schedule Version III - Revised. Discordant monozygotic within-pair comparisons revealed that PTSD probands had higher symptom counts and diagnostic prevalences of mood and anxiety disorders than their non-combat exposed co-twins. Monozygotic co-twins of PTSD probands had significantly more mood disorder symptoms than monozygotic co-twins of combat controls or dizygotic co-twins of veterans with PTSD. These findings suggest that a) major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder are part of a post-combat response syndrome; b) a shared familial vulnerability also contributes to the association between PTSD and major depression, PTSD and dysthymia, and c) this shared vulnerability is mediated by genetic factors.

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