5 Mental Illnesses That Share Genes

A study published by The Lancet found a link between five mental illnesses and genetics. The study makes it more imperative than ever for people to get screened for mental health, especially if they are predisposed for one of these conditions because of their genetics.

The Connection Between Mental Disease and DNA

The Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) began with scientists from 19 countries in 2007; that number has since grown to 38 countries. The founding goal was to study autism, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia and how those diseases manifest in DNA. The scientists studied the genes from 33,000 subjects, each of whom had a pertinent mental illness. DNA from 28,000 people without mental illness was also analyzed. This massive mental health study uncovered some exciting results.

Mental Health Testing that Uses DNA

Scientists looked at the DNA from all 61,000 participants. Out of the subjects that had mental illnesses, researchers learned key differences at the DNA level. They discovered that four regions of the genetic code had the same or extremely similar variations when compared with the people in the group without illnesses. These contrasts are caused by movement of calcium through the brain cells. Changing calcium flow, when paired with environmental or other genetic factors, can result in the onset of a serious mental illness.

Better Mental Health Screening

Doctors were already aware that families can have genetic histories of mental illness. Mental health screenings are important for people who have a diagnosed mental disorder in their family tree. Unfortunately, the study from PGC does not allow doctors to give patients an early warning that they may someday be diagnosed with a mental disorder. However, it does allow physicians to consider the possibility that five common mental illnesses previously thought to be unconnected may have a close genetic relationship. This discovery may lead to improved mental health screening practices or, hopefully, the ability to prevent the onset of mental illnesses.

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