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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2010;12(1):103-14.

The genetic epidemiology of personality disorders.

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Division of Mental Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health Institute of Psychiatry, University of Oslo, Norway.


Genetic epidemiologic studies indicate that all ten personality disorders (PDs) classified on the DSM-IV axis II are modestly to moderately heritable. Shared environmental and nonadditive genetic factors are of minor or no importance. No sex differences have been identified, Multivariate studies suggest that the extensive comorbidity between the PDs can be explained by three common genetic and environmental risk factors. The genetic factors do not reflect the DSM-IV cluster structure, but rather: i) broad vulnerability to PD pathology or negative emotionality; ii) high impulsivity/low agreeableness; and iii) introversion. Common genetic and environmental liability factors contribute to comorbidity between pairs or clusters of axis I and axis II disorders. Molecular genetic studies of PDs, mostly candidate gene association studies, indicate that genes linked to neurotransmitter pathways, especially in the serotonergic and dopaminergic systems, are involved. Future studies, using newer methods like genome-wide association, might take advantage of the use of endophenotypes.

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