Gene Associated with High Anxiety Can Have Protective Effect on the Battlefield

First Posted: Feb 13, 2013 05:41 PM EST

Stress can often trigger an unwanted feeling of worry and nervousness about the future, and especially for those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), life can be very unpredictable. Fortunately, new psychological testing has helped identify factors that can mitigate against PTSD according to researchers from Tel Aviv Unviersity's School of Psychological Sciences.

When looking at the disorder, Scientists often must look at patients already experiencing developed symptoms of PTSD. However, this can cause complications because they are often unable to draw comparisons to their psychological state prior to experiencing trauma.

Their study looked at infantry soldiers in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). As soldiers have a high probability of experiencing traumatic events because of their environment, according to Professor Bar-Haim of Tel Aviv, they can be more susceptible to developing the disorder.

Psychological and DNA studies showed that excessive threat vigilance, a behavior typically seen with elevated anxiety in everyday life, is often a normal response in soldiers during combat deployment.

Soldiers who avoided dangerous situations during combat were more likely to develop PTSD as a result of those experiences.

Through attention bias modification training - which trains participants to direct their attention either towards or away from threatening stimuli - soldiers could learn to increase their vigilance towards threats before they're deployed, possibly reducing their risk for PTSD, he says. He also notes that this discovery could prove valuable in PTSD prevention for populations that are more likely to be exposed to traumatic situations.

This study, which was done in collaboration with the IDF, the National Institutes of Mental Health, and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, was published in JAMA Psychiatry

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