Monday, April 07, 2008

TO READ: Genetic Testing for Bipolar
How would you feel if your psychiatrist could simply run a blood test to diagnose bipolar disorder? Recent research describes early studies that do just that. According to a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) press release, University of Southern California scientists have identified 10 specific genes involved in mood state. Using blood tests to determine whether each gene is active, and correlating this information with 29 bipolar patients' mood states, they found that eventually they could actually predict moods.

So what do you think? Is this what we've been seeking all along -- a definitive diagnosis that might mean more accurate and faster-working treatments? Or do you worry about that information falling into the wrong hands? And would this genetic information lead to more stigmatization (ie -- you're definitely "mentally ill") or less (ie -- it's clearly a biological issue, not a character weakness)?

According to NAMI, did a poll of 10,000 readers and found that 83% thought a blood test would be a good idea since it could help patients get appropriate treatment. I suspect a poll of 10,000 people with mood disorders would yield much more mixed results.


teabird said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I think it would be a good thing to prove once and for all that being bipolar is not a matter of "pick up your pallet and walk" - a character flaw, as you say - but I worry about being denied insurance or a job because that diagnosis is available.

Paula Joy said...

I was diagnosed back in Dec as being bipolar and started on a mood stabilizer. It worked great until 2 weeks ago. So, now I am going to my dr tomorrow to get something else.
Today, it was brought to my attention that I may not have bipolar at all and it may be my low functioning thyriod. (It's under-active). So, now I doubt my diagnosis, and it is just based on my feelings, which are unstable. So, today, I wish I could give some blood and my Dr tell me a for sure "yes" or "no" if I am in fact bipolar. I like the concrete evidence, and then go from there to fix it, and not just how I'm feeling one day or another.
It may help the stigma and make it look more medical instead of mental.

etta said...

I wrote a post ( about this issue awhile back. Frankly, I think it is a bit frightening.
I also wanted to thank you for using the word "patient" in your profile. I recently published a piece in Access Press, a national disability publication, about the word consumer--UGH! So thanks for using patient! (
Great blog! I'll be back.

Lisa Guidarini said...

Other disorders/conditions can mimic bipolar. My psychologist felt I was suffering from PTSD, but a psychiatrist diagnosed me as bipolar. The treatment is the same, so knowing which label applied wouldn't matter so much.

It's interesting, though, that they're now isolating a way to diagnose the disorder.