Five Major Mental Disorders Linked in New Huge Study

The five disorders:
Autism, Attention Deficit -hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Bipolar Disorder,
Major Depressive Disorder, and Schizophrenia, are today, considered distinct
problems. But there is reason to believe that these disorders may not look much
alike, but they share some gene based risks, according to the largest study of
mental illness to date.

“These disorders that we thought of as quite different may not have such
sharp boundaries,” said Dr. Jordan Smoller of Massachusetts General
Hospital, one of the lead researchers for the international study appearing in
the Lancet.


This may help in the
precise diagnosis of mental illness, much like we diagnose physical
illnesses. For instance, if someone comes into my office with a red eye, that
doesn’t mean it is pink eye. There are tests we do to tell it from blepharitis
or uveitis, but today, there are no blood tests for mental illnesses. Instead,
doctors rely on symptoms agreed upon by experts.

“If we really want to diagnose and treat people effectively, we have to
get to these more fine-grained understandings of what’s actually going wrong
biologically,” explained Dr Bruce Cuthbert of the National Institute
on Mental Health, which funded the research.

“We are still in the early stages of understanding what are the causes of
mental illnesses, so these are clues.” added Smoller.

For patients and their families, the research offers no immediate benefit.
These disorders are thought to be caused by a complex mix of numerous gene and
other risk factors that range from exposure in the womb to the experiences of
daily life.

“There may be many paths to each of these illnesses,” Smoller

“But the study offers a lead in the hunt for psychiatric treatments,”
said Cuthbert. “The findings make sense, as there is some overlap in the
symptoms of the different disorders. People with schizophrenia can have some of
the same social withdrawal that’s so characteristic of autism, for example. Nor
is it uncommon for people to be affected by more than one psychiatric

I, for one, am happy to see such research being done, better diagnosis means
better treatment.  And hopefully the results can be applied to other
mental disorders.


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