Reasons Why Genetic Testing for Depression is a Good Idea

The American Psychiatric Association defines depression as a “common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.” It also states that: “Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.” An estimated one out of every 15 adults is affected by depression annually while one in every six people experience depression at some point in their lives. While the disease can happen at any time in a person’s life, it typically first happens during the late teens to mid-20s, and women are much more likely than men to have depression. It is also a familial disorder—the chances of having depression are as high as 70% if a sibling has it. There are several things that can cause depression, one being genetics. In other words, it is a heritable disease, meaning that if someone who is your blood relative has it, your chances of having it are much higher.

Depression, such as bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, or other mental health disorders, is currently treated with medication. In fact, studies have shown that half of those who are diagnosed with the disorder are using medication to treat it. So that means that the right drug can have a significant impact on the quality of life of a person with clinical depression. This makes psychiatrists’ prescription decisions even more powerful in terms of which medications to prescribe. However, when prescribing medication, there’s more educated guessing on the physician’s side than we’d like to think. While it is completely acceptable for trivia nights, prescribing medications should not be based on educating guessing as much. The truth of the matter is,it has been psychiatrists’ major technique in deciding how to go about treating a depressed patient.

Human biology is complex. Unpredictable. Far from universal when it comes to medication. Doctors rely on their education to make a decision about which one of the dozens of FDA-approved anti-depressants or other treatment is going to work for a particular patient. Given the nature of our biology, it is not surprising that the best medication or other treatment for depression is only found after several trials.

With the arrival of personalized medicine, however, doctors have the chance to make their prescription decisions based on something much more concrete: a patient’s DNA.

What does this mean

What does this mean? Patients that have been diagnosed with a major depression disorder provide a sample of their saliva to be used to extract their genetic material: their DNA. That, in turn, will be analyzed through a genetic test for several depression genes and genetic variations to find out how that person is going to react or respond to a panel of more than 55 psychotropic medications (or drugs that affect a patient’s mental state). Once their DNA has been analyzed against this panel, genetic testing yields information such as favorable or unfavorable drug interactions. The test essentially looks at how well someone metabolizes or simply processes a medication.By making all this information available to psychiatrists, they are able to make prescription choices accordingly.

So, given personalized medicine and the information that it can yield, let’s dive into the several reasons as to why genetic testing for depression is actually a good idea.

1.Knowing what type of depression you have can greatly increase your chances of both managing it as well as finding the correct medications for it. A test that looks for Cytochrome p450 helps doctors figure out if someone has depression that is resistant to drugs or not. (Those with drug-resistant depression are typically immune to or don’t react to medications for depression.)

2. As touched upon above a bit already, it is of great help to know which medications are going to be perfect. “Perfect” here is a drug that will treat or help a patient manage depression as effectively as possible in as little time as possible. This includes very little guesswork or repeated visits to the doctor. This also minimizes potentially dangerous side effects.

3. Genetic testing helps save time. Given the above two reasons, a patient who not only knows what type of depression they have but also what the best medications are for treating it are saving time by avoiding much of the guesswork that is involved in finding the perfect medication. Just imagine receiving a diagnosis and immediately knowing which drugs are guaranteed to help you. No more trial and error, unnecessary side effects, and recovery times as well as loss of hope.

4. Ultimately, genetic testing for depression saves lives. I’ve mentioned side effects a few times above. In addition to a drug being ineffective, side effects could include death. This is either due to ineffective drugs or simply a lack of follow-up care.

5. Finding out that you have a genetic predisposition to depression may be beneficial to other family members as well, not just the person looking to get tested. For example, a person that has had genetic testing for dementia and knows their chances of developing the disease, they might be able to help relatives who do have that information.

6. Knowing that you are at a risk of developing depression may cause you tolive a more meaningful and healthy life. Also, finding out about genetic markers for depression may help you understand what has potentially caused it, which will make it possible to fix things.

7. Genetic testing can be done as early as childhood. This enables parents to find out if their kids are at risk and can help them take steps in the right direction to ensure a better quality of life later on.

Overall, the benefits of genetic testing when it comes to depression greatly outweigh the risks. By staying informed and in the know, people can be proactive in managing depression as well as take steps to minimize its effects. All this in a timely manner so that they can go on to live the best lives they can.

Laura Day