In a new study, researchers found genetic risk factors for developing bipolar disorder and psychoses among people with depression.
In the longer term, the results may contribute to ensuring the correct diagnosis is made earlier so that the patients can receive the correct treatment as quickly as possible.
The research was conducted by a team at the Danish psychiatry project iPSYCH.
Bipolar disorder and psychoses such as schizophrenia are serious mental disorders, which often have a great impact on a person’s life and well-being.
In a number of cases, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are first diagnosed several years after the onset of the disorder. This is associated with unfavorable prognosis for the course of the disorders.
The sooner the patient gets the correct diagnosis and begins targeted treatment, the better the prognosis.
For this reason, researchers are aiming at identifying risk factors that will aid psychiatrists to reach the correct diagnosis as early as possible.
Many people who develop bipolar disorder or psychoses initially come into contact with mental health services due to depression.
In the study, the team therefore set out to examine a dataset consisting of 16,949 people aged 10-35 who had been treated for depression at a psychiatric hospital in Denmark.
Among the factors they looked into in the study was whether the genetic risk scores for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia—i.e. a person’s individual genetic risk of developing these disorders—could possibly help psychiatrists determine which of their patients with depression was at greatest risk of subsequently developing bipolar disorder or a psychosis.
They found that the genetic risk score for bipolar disorder is associated with an increased risk of developing bipolar disorder and that the genetic risk score for schizophrenia is associated with an increased risk of developing a psychosis among patients who have been diagnosed with depression.
The team says at present, the genetic risk scores cannot contribute to early diagnosis of bipolar disorder and psychoses in clinical practice, but it cannot be ruled out that this could be the future scenario.
On the other hand, this study confirms that having a parent with bipolar disorder or psychosis is a strong predictor for the development of these particular disorders after depression.
This underlines the importance of getting information about mental disorders in the family as part of the assessment of people suffering from depression.
One author of the study is Senior Researcher Katherine Musliner from the National Centre for Register-based Research.
The study is published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
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