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The Etiology of Fear and Anxiety: The Role of Environmental Exposures 

The Etiology of Fear and Anxiety: The Role of Environmental Exposures
The Etiology of Fear and Anxiety: The Role of Environmental Exposures

John M. Hettema

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date: 19 October 2020

Both genetic and environmental risk factors predict the development of anxiety disorders. This occurs by both main effects of each risk domain as well as their interactions, in which relevant environmental exposures have greater inherent potency in susceptible individuals. Such a stress-diathesis model applies not only to predisposition at the basic genetic level via specific risk variants but also through higher-order characteristics (psychological or biological) that correlate with anxiety disorders in both affected individuals and their biological relatives (endophenotypes). A wide range of candidate environmental exposures have been studied for their potential relationship with development of anxiety disorders. Both childhood adversity (parental loss, parenting style, abuse) and stressful life events experienced during adulthood are associated with anxiety disorder risk, with varying levels of evidence and effect size.

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