Twin data permit decomposition of comorbidity into genetically and environmentally derived correlations. No previous twin study includes all major forms of anxiety disorder.
To estimate the degree to which genetic and environmental risk factors are shared rather than unique to dimensionally scored panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, phobias, obsessive–compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Data obtained from 2801 young-adult Norwegian twins by means of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview were analysed with the Mx program.
A multivariate common factor model fitted best. The latent liability to all anxiety disorders was substantially more heritable (54%) than the individual disorders (23% to 40%). Most of the genetic effect was common to the disorders. Genes contributed just over 50% to the covariance between liabilities.
The five anxiety disorders all share genetic and environmental risk factors. This has implications for the revision of the anxiety disorder section in DSM–V.