In the largest study of it’s kind, one hundred and nine genes were identified as playing a role in psychiatric disorders including BIPOLAR DISORDER. The study included 232,964 cases of which people lived with a mental illness and 494,162 people who did not. Eight common psychiatric disorders share deep ties. This suggests that three different diagnosis are not as different as we currently think.
The study was published in the journal Cell this week. The genetic data from 727,126 people reveal that these disorders share genes: anorexia nervosa, attention hyperactive deficit disorder (ADHD), autism, BIPOLAR DISORDER, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and Tourette’s syndrome. The study found 109 genes that play a role in more than one of the conditions.
The findings suggest different approach is needed to conceptualize , diagnose, and potentially treat these disorders. The eight conditions can be broadly lumped into just three categories based on genetic similarity, according to the study. The three categories include the following:
- Schizophrenia, BIPOLAR DISORDER, and depression had close ties. These disorders are typically identified in adulthood.
- Anorexia nervosa, obsessive compulsive disorder, and Tourette syndrome are highly genetically related. Elements of compulsive behavior is also present.
- ADHD, autism, depression, and Tourette syndrome shared genetic ties and could be found in the onset of childhood.
I do not find it surprising that those of us living with BIPOLAR DISORDER are put in a sub group with schizophrenia and depression. BIPOLAR depression is a large part of our daily lives. After all, our condition is mania and depression. I can also understand why we are grouped with schizophrenia because some of us living with BIPOLAR DISORDER also experience hallucinations.
Right now, diagnosis of psychiatric disorders is based wholly on clinical presentation. These finding could potentially bring biology to the table when diagnosing the patient. No overnight changes are expected, naturally, but the results could lead to more knowledge of how biology affects these disorders. The environment has a huge impact on mental illness so genes are not the whole story. The paper, posted in the journal Cell, points to one hundred and nine traits that affect both a psychiatric condition and at least one other trait. But there are eleven genes that show that having the gene that predisposes you toward one condition could protect you from having another.
There is a theory among the psychiatric community that no single gene causes a psychiatric condition. Instead, there is a network of genes that interact and contribute. We need to figure out how all the genes in the network fit together in order for new treatments to be developed.
I believe these new findings are a good thing. So many people go about their lives with the wrong diagnosis. I lived with depression for years before we figured out I was beautifully bipolar. Knowing is half the battle. If we know what gene or genes and environment are the cause of a mental illness then we could treat it in a whole new way.
*This information came from an article in Inverse written by Emma Betuel.