Our CureTalk Mental Health Panel Discussion is coming up on Tuesday and I can’t wait! I think it’s going to be wonderful, both for us as panelists and for the listeners. This is the first time I’ve ever participated in something like this, so it’s very exciting. If you’re interested in tuning in on Tuesday, May 14th at 4pm PST, please RSVP at CureTalk’s website.
I read an article in NAMI Advocate Spring 2013 issue titled “Genes and Diagnosis: One Key Puzzle Piece Revealed.” The article was written by Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI’s Medical Director. Dr. Duckworth writes about his own experience working with young adults who have recently begun to experience psychosis. I mentioned in my previous blog post about the currently accepted practice of using DSM diagnoses that are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms. Dr. Duckworth states that because there currently is no neurobiological diagnostic framework that reflects precisely what is happening in his patients brains, he, and every other psychiatrist must “organize symptoms into reliably observed clusters to drive his diagnostic thinking.”
Dr. Duckworth also mentions a February 2013 study published in the journal Lancet titled, “Identification of Risk Loci with Shared Effects on Five Major Disorders: A Genome-wide Analysis.” This study is also moving the field of psychiatry toward diagnoses rooted in neuroscience rather than symptoms. “The study team found that having a few key genes can raise the probability of an individual developing any one of the following mental illnesses: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, depression and autism.” The problem is that different individuals with the same gene(s) may exhibit different clusters of symptoms. Dr. Duckworth states that this is probably because of the impact of the individual’s environment on gene expression, the interaction of multiple genes, or other unknown factors.
As far as I can tell, neuroscience is a very complicated field, and I’m sure that I will never come close to understanding the complexities of the brain. I admire the scientists who undertake this critical yet mysterious field of research. I believe the more we know about how our brains function, the better. I also believe that we should not forget about the human (social, emotional, thinking, feeling, remembering) component of these types of mental illnesses. Helping people to live healthy, happy lives while managing a severe psychiatric illness is more than just understanding what went wrong in their brain. It is also about understanding and tapping into the ability each person has to heal themselves.