Mental health conditions affect millions of people worldwide, with a significant impact on quality of life, productivity, and overall well-being. While there are many factors that contribute to mental health conditions, including environmental, social, and psychological factors, genetics also play a significant role. Genetic testing has emerged as a promising tool to better understand mental health conditions and guide personalized treatment options.
In this blog, we will explore the seven benefits of genetic testing for mental health. We will discuss how genetic testing can lead to personalized treatment, early detection, prevention, improved understanding, family planning, personal empowerment, and ethical considerations. By understanding the potential benefits of genetic testing, individuals and healthcare providers can better assess the role of genetic testing in mental health and determine how it can be integrated into existing mental health care strategies.
Genetic Testing is the Future of Mental Health
What are the benefits of mental health genetic testing?
- Mental illness can run in families. If your family has a history of mental illness there are genes that may increase your risk of having a mental health disorder. Major depression, eating and anxiety disorders, alcoholism, ADHD, and personality disorders have all shown genetic tendencies. Understanding you may be at a heightened risk of developing a mental health disorder can help you learn ways to better prevent or control the disorder. For example, if alcoholism is something that you may be predisposed to, you may wish to avoid alcohol or monitor your intake more closely. Paying special attention to your mental health and prioritizing it can help you prevent or reduce mental illness symptoms.
- Schizophrenia risk increases dramatically with certain rare genetic changes. If this disorder runs in your family, speaking with a genetic counselor can help you determine what risk, if any, your children may have. You can then decide whether to have children or whether you may need to be aware of certain early symptoms.
- If you are currently being treated for mental illness, having the genetic knowledge may lead to more appropriate and effective treatment.
- Genetic testing contributes to ongoing research leading to new insights and potential new treatments.
What can genetic testing do for psychiatric medications?
- Pharmacogenetic testing for psychiatric medications can predict a patient’s response to various medications. When studied, 99.4% of 10,000 patients resulted in variants of at least 1 gene that affects metabolism of drugs used for management of mental health disorders. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, antiepileptics, and nonstimulant medications are affected by genes that encode proteins involved in their metabolism, their drug receptor interactions, and their drug hypersensitivity reactions.
- Pharmacogenetic test results improve prescribing practices leading to better adherence, fewer side effects, increased efficacy, and reduced costs.
7 Benefits of Genetic Testing for Mental Health
- Mental health treatments designed to work with your personal genetics are more likely to work well with fewer adverse reactions, reducing the need for trial-and-error.
- Pharmacogenetic testing helps healthcare providers choose the most effective medication with the least potential for side effects and can help prescribers determine the appropriate dose.
- Individuals with a genetic predisposition may benefit from concentrating on lifestyle and dietary changes in addition to any medications that may be recommended.
- Diagnosing mental illness earlier in life allows for better control and treatment. Patients who remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed do poorer in school or work, make less money, have more health issues, and are at increased risk of suicide.
- Detecting and then treating or preventing mental illness reduces healthcare burden, saves money, and increases productivity.
- Mental illness sometimes occurs because of poor MTHFR function, a genetic change that leads to the inability to process folic acid into its active form, folate. If this misfunction is known the patient can make dietary or supplement changes that can prevent the variant from causing issues.
- Genetic test results help pinpoint mental health conditions by leading to a definitive diagnosis and ruling out other possibilities.
Practitioners can use psychiatric genetics to identify variations that increase the risk of mental illnesses. When these risks are known, this information may be used to implement preventive measures or early interventions to help manage or reduce the risk of developing a mental health disorder.
Interventions may include the following behavioral health areas:
- All health starts with how you eat. Eating a diet rich in fresh, raw, fruits, vegetables, berries, and omegas is a must. Berries and omegas especially help brain health.
- Regular heart pumping exercise promotes your body’s own production of dopamine.
- Going outside, being in the sunlight (natural Vitamin D), breathing fresh air, enjoying nature all have been shown to improve mental health.
- Unplugging from electronics allows your body to change inputs and helps your brain to rest. Allowing yourself to just think rather than read or watch has been shown to be more enjoyable than expected.
- Controlling what goes into your head by selectively avoiding negative news or people; and proactively choosing media and people that build you up rather than break you down can help a person become more positive.
- Genetic test results help researchers better understand the biological means underlying mental health disorders allowing for the development of new treatments and interventions.
- Understanding the way mental health is affected by our genes helps to remove the stigma surrounding disorders such as bipolar, ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, and depression by providing evidence of the biological basis of mental illness.
- Medical genetics can help identify if a parent carries a gene variant that can lead to an increased risk for certain mental health disorders.
- Undergoing testing with a genetic counselor helps determine if a genetic mutation could be passed on to the children. Parents may avoid passing on genetic disorders.
- Prenatal genetic testing can determine if the developing baby has inherited any genetic mutations that may be associated with mental illnesses. The parents then could prepare for any potential challenges that may be associated.
- Parents can work with healthcare professionals to reduce the impact of any inherited disorder. Adjustments in diet, lifestyle, or other therapies may be started preemptively.
- Knowledge of your own risk for developing certain mental health disorders encourages you to make lifestyle changes, seek treatment, and engage in your own self-care.
- Genetic testing and pharmacogenetic testing can help your healthcare providers develop personalized treatment plans that are tailored to your uniqueness. This leads to more effective treatments.
- Genetic testing can empower you to seek support through groups; providing you with access to resources and information that can help you better understand your condition and connect with others who share similar experiences.
- Evidence of the biological nature of your genetic disorder helps reduce stigma and realize your illness is not a result of personal weakness or character flaws. With less stigma, you may be more likely to seek treatment and support.
- Informed consent allows individuals to make an informed decision about their healthcare, including decisions about whether to undergo genetic testing and what to do with the results.
- Genetic testing providers are required to adhere to strict privacy and security standards including the protection of a person’s genetic information.
- The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibits insurance companies and employers from using genetic information to deny coverage or employment. Similar laws exist in Canada, Japan, and many other countries.
Genetic testing for mental illness can help you understand your health better. Lifestyle or dietary changes sometimes may not be enough. Your healthcare provider may decide that medication therapy is appropriate. Pharmacogenetic testing can help.
Looking for help determining the best medication options for your specific health concern? See how ClarityX can help!