Bipolar disorder is often comorbid with anxiety, which is itself associated with poorer clinical outcomes, including suicide. A better etiologic understanding of this comorbidity could inform diagnosis and treatment. The present study aims to test whether comorbid anxiety in bipolar disorder reflects shared genetic risk factors. We also sought to assess the contribution of genetic risk for anxiety to suicide attempts in bipolar disorder. Polygenic risk scores (PRS) were calculated from published genome-wide association studies of samples of controls and cases with anxiety (n = 83,566) or bipolar disorder (n = 51,710), then scored in independent target samples (total n = 3369) of individuals with bipolar disorder who reported or denied lifetime anxiety disorders or suicidal attempts in research interviews. Participants were recruited from clinical and nonclinical settings and genotyped for common genetic variants. The results show that polygenic risk for anxiety was associated with comorbid anxiety disorders and suicide attempts in bipolar disorder, while polygenic risk for bipolar disorder was not associated with any of these variables. Our findings point out that comorbid anxiety disorders in bipolar disorder reflect a dual burden of bipolar and anxiety-related genes; the latter may also contribute to suicide attempts. Clinical care that recognizes and addresses this dual burden may help improve outcomes in people living with comorbid bipolar and anxiety disorders.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry