Depressed patients with a family history of alcoholism are at greater risk for suicidal behavior and posttraumatic stress disorder
Leo Sher, M.D.
Our research report, “Clinical features of depressed patients with or without a family history of alcoholism” was published 15 years ago in the October 2005 issue of Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica (1).
We compared clinical features of depressed patients without alcoholism but with a family history of alcoholism to depressed patients without alcoholism and without a family history of alcoholism. To our knowledge, this was the first study that compared clinical features and comorbidity in depressed individuals with or without a history of alcoholism in first‐degree relatives and which included an examination of the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and personality disorders and a comprehensive evaluation of suicidal behavior.
A total of 209 depressed patients (n=67 males and n=142 females) without a history of alcoholism in first‐degree relatives and 73 depressed patients (n=9 males and n=64 females) with a history of alcoholism in first‐degree relatives participated in the study. DSM‐IV Axis I and Axis II disorders were diagnosed using the Structured Clinical Interview I (SCID‐I) and the Structured Clinical Interview II (SCID‐II), respectively, for DSM‐IV.
We found that depressed individuals with a family history of alcoholism had a significantly higher prevalence of reported childhood physical and sexual abuse and PTSD, made more suicide attempts, and had greater intent to die at the time of their most lethal suicide attempt, compared to depressed individuals without a family history of alcoholism.
Our results indicate that individuals who have a first‐degree relative with alcoholism may be at a greater risk for psychopathology and be more impaired by that psychopathology than individuals who do not have a first‐degree relative with alcoholism. Our findings underline the importance of careful diagnostic interviews that include questions regarding a family history of alcoholism and other psychiatric disorders.
1. Sher L, Oquendo MA, Conason AH, Brent DA, Grunebaum MF, Zalsman G, Burke AK, Mann JJ. Clinical features of depressed patients with or without a family history of alcoholism. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2005 Oct;112(4):266-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2005.00591.x. PMID: 16156833.