Are All Mental Illnesses Created Equal?
A new study finds that mental health issues like bipolar, depression, ADD and schizophrenia share common genetic roots.
Mental health issues seem so different, yet it seems the five most common mental illnesses (autism, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disease, schizophrenia and major depression) share a common genetic root. In the past mental health issues have been treated as separate disorders with distinct traits, but these findings, just published in the journal Lancet, could lead to a new understanding of the causes of mental illness.
“We have been able to discover specific genetic variants that seem to overlap among disorders that we think of as very clinically different,” Dr. Jordan Smoller of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who led the study, said in a telephone interview with NBC News.
While there is still much to learn, this study does show that on a genetic level these five diseases are more like a continuum of dysfunction rather than five separate conditions.
The research was conducted by an international team numbering in the dozens. They performed a genome-wide association study to look at the genetics of more than 33,000 psychiatric patients. They compared these to nearly 28,000 people without mental illness. Their findings suggest a genetic weakness in the development of the brain may lead to a variety of psychiatric symptoms.
The news doesn’t come as a complete surprise to many experts. Doctors have long been aware of some overlap of symptoms and understand that in families prone to one psychiatric disease another can occur. Still, this finding could lead to better understanding of these related diseases and better treatment.
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