While psychiatric symptoms are common in the general population and even more prevalent in alcoholics, their clinical implications are not clear. The goal of this study was to establish the life-time rates of several independent and concurrent mood and anxiety disorders in alcoholics, controls and their relatives.
Structured interviews were administered to alcoholics entering treatment, their relatives, and controls.
The study was carried out in six different centers in the United States as part of the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA).
Data were gathered from 2713 alcohol dependent subjects (probands and their alcoholic relatives) and 919 controls.
The timeline-based Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism (SSAGA) interview was administered face to face by trained, closely supervised interviewers. The life-time rates for concurrent and independent disorders were determined for three DSM-III-R major mood and four major anxiety disorders.
Some form of independent mood disorder was seen during the life-time in slightly fewer alcoholics than controls (14.0% and 17.1%), but alcoholics did show higher rates of independent bipolar disorder (2.3% vs. 1.0%). The life-time rate for independent anxiety disorders was significantly higher in alcoholics than controls (9.4% vs. 3.7%), with most of the differential related to panic disorder (4.2% vs. 1.0%) and social phobia (3.2% vs. 1.4%), but no significant group differences for agoraphobia or obsessive-compulsive disorder. In general, these findings regarding mood and anxiety disorders were reflected in close relatives.
The large majority of alcohol-dependent men and women in this sample did not have any of the independent mood or anxiety disorders evaluated here. However, there was evidence of enhanced risks among alcoholics for independent bipolar, panic and social phobic disorders. Studies which do not distinguish carefully between independent and concurrent mood and anxiety disorders in alcoholics are likely to report much higher rates of co-morbid psychiatric disorders than those that distinguish between the two types of syndromes.