Tuesday, March 25, 2008

At-Home DNA Test For Bipolar Disorder

Psynomics , the first company to offer diagnostic testing for mental illness, is causing a stir in the health field. They offer two genetic tests to diagnose Bipolar Disorder on its website, along with descriptions, references and instructions for individuals and doctors.

Once ordered, a "spit kit" arrives at one's home or doctor's office. From there, the procedure is simple. Spit, seal and send. Psynomics will analyze the DNA and forward test results and a report. For more on the process, read here .

There are some limitations, specifically that the genetic test is valid only if you experience the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and are Caucasian with Northern European ancestry.

Some health experts worry that such genetic tests are built on thin data and may be preying on a person's deepest anxieties. While others feel it is an exciting step into a new world. A world where technology and genetic helps to make diagnosis easier.

I'm excited by the possibilities.

How about you?


Fallen Angels said...

I'm excited about the possibilities! Huge potential to get rid of some stigma too! To those people that say psychology and psychiatry isn't "real" science and to those who deny that some mental illness is biologically based; I can't wait to be ble to say "why yes, as a matter of fact there IS a lab test for bipolar/schizophrenia/depression/ADHD"! It won't help in my case, but lessening the stigma helps us all in the long run.

Casdok said...


Deb said...

Dear Fallen,
I agree that it will give validity and realness to mental illness. So take that, disbelievers!!!

Dear Casdok,
To say the least!


Lynn said...

I think it's very fishy that a DNA test would only be valid if a person is experiencing certain symptoms. Either the gene is there or it isn't. I'm not surprised, though.

IntelligentLayPerson said...

Lynn, it isn't fishy at all. You can have a breast cancer gene, but aren't guaranteed to have breast cancer. You can have the fat gene and not be fat if you watch your calories and exercise. Those are just a couple of good examples that are obvious ones, but there are many other genes a person can carry but their lifestyle and environment prevent the gene from manifesting as a condition.

Consider this, you wouldn't want to say someone IS bipolar unless they display the symptoms even with or without a DNA test. It's a serious diganosis.

Our environment plays a large key in how our bodies and brains respond to diseases.

This is still a very exciting thing because it can possibly help the patients out there that don't fall into the category of 'classic symptoms' by giving a physician more information about what it could be verses what it definitely is not.

Lynn said...

"...you wouldn't want to say someone IS bipolar unless they display the symptoms even with or without a DNA test. It's a serious diganosis."

Yes, it is very serious. That is why I worry about a test that seems to try to simplify things that are not simple at all. A person can have the gene in question, or it's mutations, and NOT have BP. The makers of the test are not trying to hide that. They even admit that there are other genes that can be responsible (for which there is no test) and also that other causes unrelated to genes can cause the illness. Reading all the information available, it seems the test is rather inconclusive.

If you want to know how the public will perceive the test, consider this from comment #1: "I can't wait to be ble to say "why yes, as a matter of fact there IS a lab test for bipolar/schizophrenia/depression/ADHD"!

And I am not picking on the dear commentor, I think this is a natural human reaction. We all want answers. We all want things to be simple. But some things just aren't. My main worry here, is how this kind of information will be misused by insurance companies. They are a ruthless bunch. To put out a test that doesn't really provide enough information is like waving a red cape in front of a bull.

Woe to the person who has the gene in question, but not the illness. My husband and I are both self-employed and we had to purchase our own health insurance. They can and do discriminate, unlike employer based stuff, on the basis of a person's health status and there are no laws to stop them.

jumpinginpuddles said...

umm we might be the only person whose thinking what if the person finding out doesnt do it with a docs support? Just having a thought that there is a high possibility of some SI issues if thats th case. Have a feeling this is like a drive through at maccas

CrackerLilo said...

Interesting possibilities, and will probably allow people to take the steps they need to get help at their own pace. (Like WebMD, only more concrete!) I hope this is the start of something great. Like Fallen Angels, I think it will help with stigma; it might also be good for, say, children of people with these disorders who are just beginning to manifest symptoms.

Health Psych said...

It is exciting but my one concern is maybe it's a little too early, maybe it's just not to the point where it should be made available yet...

OHN said...

One of the things that concerns me is a patient relying on this for a self diagnosis. Not all people that would order/take the test would follow up with a physician or psychologist after finding out the results. I would feel more comfortable if it was a test ordered by a health professional and followed up as well. (I also wonder about the people that are already in treatment, getting a negative result and stopping meds for example.)

Lynn said...

For those worried about self-diagnosis, the company will only send results to doctors for just this reason.

For more complete info, go here:

An exerpt: "[The maker of the test] acknowledges that bipolar disorder probably results from a combination of genetic factors and life experiences, and that the presence of these gene variations does not at all mean that someone will, in fact, develop the disease. He admits, too, that his findings about the genetic basis of the illness are far from complete."

I think we all might be missing the bigger picture here when it comes to genetics and 'mental illness'. Perhaps all this research merely proves that human beings are wired to react to their environments, whatever they may be.

Lynn said...

Oops. Here:


Angel Chasse said...

Hey Dr Deb :)

I love love love the idea of this testing...however had a family memeber go in to have "saliva enzymes" tested, and of course there were tons of problem areas and she was talked into lots of experimental, non fda approved treatments/vitamins etc. So I guess I can see how this tech in the wrong (uneducated) hands could lead to troubles. All in all though, very nice to see that we are seeing "validation" as far as mental vs physical ailments!!!


wolfbaby said...

It's interesting but concerning in that it's not conclusive and the way various groups will play on this for political/financial reasons. I to worry that people will use this to eventually discrimate jut because someone has the gene. right now things like this are very private for people.. once you design test to conclusivly prove it.. (though i realize there not at that stage now) it is information anyone doing a drug test (ie jobs) can tell about you

*shrug* there are pluses and minsus to everything in life though;)

MYSTI said...

Very Interesting!

S'onnie said...

I think it's amazing what science can find out these days. I do think that things like this test will help make diagnosis easier for drs rather then it just being a bit of a guessing game at times, they may be able to get an actual answer for what is going on. For me I think that is the key that the test is done along side a dr trying to find a diagnosis. I wouldn't like to see someone just off the street get the test and cause more headaches in the long run

dragonflyfilly said...


Raine said...

wile excited about the possibilities I also concerned about such things as false negatives and the possible consequences of those. If this test were to be taken as accurate and it were not entirely accurate then there could be serious consequences not only from false positives but also false negatives

Raine said...

I'm referring to possible denial of benefits ect

United We Lay said...

Maybe it's a paranoia thing, but I'm wary of anything that gives unfettered access to DNA. If our phone lines are being tapped, our library records are being recorded, and our bank records are being checked, what is to stop the government from futher encroaching on our privacy and entering our DNA into a databases for purposes other than what we intended it for?

Beachwriter said...

I don't find this to be successful at all. Why? Because although, In my opinion, most mental illnesses and diseases are highly genetic, I don't believe that if you have the so-called gene that you have the disease or illness.

And even though environment, post partum depression, and childbirth can most definetely trigger bipolar to manifest, not everyone who experiences these things come out with bipolar even if they have the gene.

In my opinion, mental illnesses are both genetic and environmental with the genetics to be a higher rate. We cannot forget our OWN genetic make-up, chemistry, and how we handle stress.

I think that we all have a gene for something, that does not mean we are going to end up with something.

Alcoholism runs BIG in my family, and more than likely, I have the gene for it...but I don't drink a lot and I am not an alcoholic.

BPD in OKC said...

I am really leery of these tests

Anonymous said...

OMG! The possibilities are amazing aren't they? Now if I could just get my ex husband to spit on me again, I could send the test in and have some much needed info...heh

Jade said...

I think thats absolutely amazing but worried at the same time. It would be horrible to "misdiagnose" someone because the test isn't %100 accurate or has a glitch found in later research. As we all know, one can "think" their way into having a condition. So hopefully this is something that is dependable in its outcome for those that it is applicable for.

Ms.L said...

I think that is so cool!
Just think about all the possibilities now.
I heard on the news that saliva tests are going to be the next new thing to test for all sorts of medical problems.

Deb said...

Dear Lynn,
The gene can be there but the symptoms not. I know, it sounds odd. And I think it;s the idea of Stigma that will be reduced that has Fallen (and me) feeling hopeful.

Dear Intelligent,
Thank you for explaining it so well.

Dear JIP,
Good point.

Dear Cracker,
Stigma busting is a good thing.

Dear HP,
They isolated the gene in December 07. To have a test so fast made me a little wary too. I guess time will show us how accurate and useful it can/will be.

Dear OHN,
I think you make an excellent point. The results, I think, go to one's doctor. Not the person directly.

Dear Lynn,
Oh, thank you for the facts. I wasn't sure about that.

Dear Angel,
You also echo the worry of others here. What will be done with the DNA, etc. Who is safeguarding, watchdogging, etc. Good points.

Dear Wolfbaby,
Sadly, with great discoveries come those who may use them for malicious purposes. I share your concern too.

Dear Mysti,
Controversial too.

Dear S'Onnie,
Diagnosis is a ruling out phenomenon now. Having hard data can help...and for it to be done with a professional is the way to go, I agree.

Dear Dragon,
Hmmm, indeed.

Dear Raine,
All comments here echo my own excitment and concern. I know what you mean.

Dear United,
Yes, what happens to all that DNA afterwards?? Would be comforting to know how it's discarded, stored, etc.

Dear Beach,
I hear you. And you are right.

Dear BPD,
I feel excited about the possibilities but also concerned as well.

Dear Traci,

Dear Jade,
You and I, and many here, feel the same way. Excited, cautious, circumspect.

Dear Ms. L,
I have seen people who cannot find an accurate diagnosis. ANd treatments then become difficult. If something like this can help with diagnosis, it would be great. But with all this technology come bigger questions too.


Fallen Angels said...

To clarify my comment... being able to say there is a lab test was meant directly for those people that say all mental illness is in your head, meds are a conspiracy between doctors and pharm. companies and "there is no lab test to prove a biological basis of mental illness like there is for diabetes"...which I have seen posted on many different places, including once here, I believe.

James said...

Sounds promising. I read an article about finding genes involved with Schizophrenia which is the other half of my condition.

Thought you'd be interested in reading it.

Sid said...

While I can envision the possible positives of developing a DNA test for Bipolar and other mental illnesses, I think it's far too early and far too inconclusive to have this product on the market.

The section about the test titled What Can Psynomics Testing Not Tell Me? shows how ineffectual this test actually is. I can't see spending $400 on a test that really doesn't offer any answers other than maybe a yes or no that you have a particular gene.

As they say on their own website..."Remember that genes don’t dictate destiny. Having the gene doesn’t mean you have the disease."

Awake In Rochester said...

You have to display the symptoms first? That odd.

kath said...

Somehow this just scares me. Things like this always do.

In our society we manage to take something promising and good, and turn them into a nightmare .. or something used to feed the greed of some corporation.

Like vaccines.

They were good once.. but then they started to feed the fear, and pump more chemicals into the children of mothers who were just trying to do what was right...

sad sad

Sarebear said...

An interesting, controversial, deep, multi-faceted topic! I foresee more from you in the future on this, and trust that you'll bring us news as it comes on the issue!

Oh, and you're finally a noodlehead.

(I finally put you in my sidebar, I've been recently sloooooooooowly revamping my sidebar, a couple deaths in the family and a diagnosis of genetic osteoarthritis kinda started this year off rough for me, but I'm picking myself back up.)

Anyway, go take a look under noodleheads. (One of my attempts to accept my silliness, as is part of the purpose of my blog, is titling my favorite bloggers section of the sidebar/links "Noodleheads") Besides, you guys all use your noodles pretty well, I'd say! Hee hee.

Sorry to ramble, I lost my adderall last week, off to get more tonight (lol).

TTFN, and thanks for keepin' on checking in with me, even though I've been scarce! As you can see, it's been a heckuva start to the year! (er, not that I'm going to use your comments for updates, but it HAS been a long time!)

8^D (insert me waving hi, here!) sarebear.wav file teehee

Bee Repartee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bee Repartee said...

Aside from patient confidentiality which is a large issue for me (having worked in the insurance field), I would hope that the research has been exhaustive to prove that this underlying gene is the culprit.

Even false positives would be an acceptable compromise, because they will only send your information to a licensed professional managing your care and not to you. (See their PDF consent form) This is especially important if you are experiencing mental health disorder symptoms.

The consent form also informs you that:
"Genetic testing may expose you to risk of discrimination by
health insurance companies, making it more difficult for you to be insured."

That is a big issue for me.

My question would be, why can't the person's doctor do this test for you in office if the results go to your doctor who is already treating you anyway?

I would wonder at Psynomics primary motive, research or money, and unless they are using data for further research, I would cringe to know I am just paying for a more expensive, but convienient lab.

Lynn said...

Bee just nailed some massive issues! Anyone who has been diagnosed with any serious 'mental disorder' is going to have a really rude awakening if they need to apply for private insurance. Now that people can also be weeded out on the basis of the existence of a gene, they probably will be, whether they are diagnosed or not. Ironically, this shoving off of patients with so-called mental disorders, is not due only to the costs of the disorder itself, but by the insurance companies' anticipation of major health problems linked to some of the treatments. That is why they will reject the applicant instead of just exclude mental health from the policy. They do this with things that are not classified as 'mental', too, but for things that are not considered systemic, they will usually exclude the coverage of specific conditions or body parts instead of rejecting the applicant. I know. I have an uninsured body part!

Though it may be initially comforting that the test results will only be sent to doctors, that backfires, too, as far as insurance goes. Private insurance requires bloodtest, urine tests, and fairly rigorous screening. The big thing here -- they also pull the medical records. If you don't sign to let them access your records, they will turn you down FLAT. Period. End of discussion. So, when they pull the records, and see the genetic test results that were sent to your doctor and you have the gene... it's just not good.

Example: What if some person was depressed after a death in the family and the doctor gave them antidepressants and the patient disliked the side effects and came in to complain about it. The doctor overreacts (because we're all supposed to gobble down antidepressants, you know:-). Doctor orders the test to 'make sure' the patient is not BP. What if it ends up that the person has the gene, cans the antidepressants a few months after adjusting to the death, and then is fine -- UNTIL they lose their job years later and have to fend for themselves with private insurance. This person could literally develop, and die of, heart disease or cancer or a metabolic disease because they can't afford proper and regular screenings for an entire family with no insurance. Things like this happen more than we would like to believe. To allow a test like this, when it is inconclusive and cannot serve a solid purpose, is hazardous to longterm health. I think some guy just wants to make money selling his test. I wouldn't even be surprised if he got some research funding from the big insurance groups.

Anyone who thinks they may lose their insurance, or need to be self employed in the future, should consider these things VERY carefully before having a test like this. By all means, get some kind of treatment, but be very wary of any genetic test that can't really give you the answers you need. Something like this could follow a person and make it very difficult, or even impossible, to take care of health matters in certain situations. I would never agree to a test like this. If I were uninsurable, who would be the policy owner for my dependent children in the private insurance arena? Due to PTSD issues, I would probably not be able to keep the kind of job that would make me eligible for group coverage. If one of my children required expensive treatment, would I have to render myself financially insolvent so the child would qualify for Medicaid, or would I have to give up custody of my sick child to someone who has a group policy and could list them as a dependent?

It's a hard, cold world out there. Tests like these are not a game and we never know what life might bring. We all need to be very careful with our insurability. Our very lives and the lives of our minor children could depend on it. People die every day because they can't afford expensive and life saving medical care. Don't be one of them if you can help it.

heiresschild said...

every bit of breakthrough for any health issue is exciting indeed!