Background: The comorbidity of depression and anxiety is associated with an increased risk of prolonged adverse mental health status. However, little is currently known about their genetic and environmental influences that help to explain both the comorbidity and distinctiveness. Using longitudinal twin data, the present study investigated both the overlapping and distinct relationships between depression and anxiety viewed from the perspective of Gray's Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST): two personality traits of the Behavioral Inhibition and Activation Systems (BIS and BAS). Methods: A total of 422 twin pairs (298 monozygotic and 124 dizygotic pairs) participated by completing a personality questionnaire at wave 1, and mood symptoms questionnaires at wave 2. The waves were on average 2.23 years apart. Results: Multivariate Cholesky decomposition indicated that the genetic variance of the personality traits (BIS and BAS) explained all of the genetic variance in depressive and anxiety symptoms. Additionally, genetic factors related to the BIS positively explained depressive and anxiety symptoms, whereas genetic factors related to the BAS negatively explained only depressive symptoms. Limitations: Limitations include shorter time interval and the reliance on self-reported data. Conclusions: The present study provided evidence explaining the overlap and differentiation of depressive and anxiety symptoms by using data on personality traits in a longitudinal, genetically-informative design. The findings suggested the personality traits from Gray's RST model played an important role in the prediction, and clarified the description, of both depressive and anxiety symptoms.
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