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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bipolar Testing Gone Mad

When it comes to knowing what someone that is diagnosed with Bipolar disorder is all about I think I have a front row seat on the topic. By no means am I any kind of medical doctor or someone with fifteen letters after their name with advanced degrees in mental health education. I’m one of two parents that have faced it for years with one of our children and it is not an overnight diagnosis. Matter of fact, technically you can not be diagnosed bipolar until you are an adult. But Bipolar conditions in people can be narrowed down and treated with the right professional medical care and tested medications.

One of the things that I am certain of is that there is not one single doctor out there that will overwhelmingly say that any individual is bipolar even after several visits with the patient. Apparently, all of the medical doctors, counselors, psychiatric health care workers are out of a job due to a spit in a cup test that nails a person as bipolar. I can’t make this stuff up and MSNBC has this to say on it…

Experts troubled by at-home bipolar gene tests

Many such products sold online with almost no government oversight

Associated Press
updated 2:23 p.m. ET, Sun., March. 23, 2008

SAN DIEGO - Dr. John Kelsoe has spent his career trying to identify the biological roots of bipolar disorder. In December, he announced he had discovered several gene mutations closely tied to the disease, also known as manic depression.

Then Kelsoe, a prominent psychiatric geneticist at the University of California, San Diego, did something provocative for the buttoned-down world of academic medical research: He began selling bipolar genetic tests straight to the public over the Internet last month for $399.

His company, La Jolla-based Psynomics, joins a legion of startups racing to exploit the boom in research connecting genetic variations to a host of health conditions. More than 1,000 at-home gene tests have burst onto the market in the past few years.

The proliferation of these tests troubles many public health officials, medical ethicists and doctors. The tests receive almost no government oversight, even though many of them are being sold as tools for making serious medical decisions.

Health experts worry that many of these products are built on thin data and are preying on individuals’ deepest anxieties.

“People are always rushing to the market on the basis of one or two studies,” said Dr. Muin Khoury, director of the National Office of Public Health Genomics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We have very little evidence that telling people their genetic information is going to make any difference.”

Tests have become available claiming to help predict and diagnose everything from serious illnesses like cancer and Alzheimer’s to athletic ability and a person’s ideal diet. Psynomics’ offering is one of the first psychiatric gene tests on the market.

First off, the human mind is a very complex machine that will never be fully understood even with thousands of years of research. Granted that great progress has been made in the last forty years but that progress is only the very tip top of the iceberg.

Having been through the long trials of a child with mental health issues it is not anything that you would ever want to go through. It’s painful, it’s full of very difficult decisions, and it’s full of many highs and many lows. There is no middle ground when it comes to being the parent of someone that is probably Bipolar. All of the heartaches faced are from the person afflicted with the diagnosis that is not guaranteed and the ones that love them without question. One thing I am certain of is that many well educated people saw my child, diagnosed approximate disorders, missed the medications she needed and missed the overall picture. Standing back after years, if you picked apart the summation of each doctor and psychiatrist she saw you might have the overall picture but it is still a guess. Even to this very day it is a mystery so spitting in a cup is not the tell all diagnosis by any means.

One thing I am certain of is that you can not know what a persons mind is truly all about completely. Spitting in a cup and mailing the results back to your doctor is only one possible piece to the big picture that is the human mind. Our human mind is a jigsaw puzzle of the magnitude that if you spread all of the pieces out end to end it would take millions of light years to reach the end of it and that would only be the first we would ever understand. Assembling the pieces is a challenge we might never find the solution too when all of the pieces can change shape at any point in time. This kind of test is not cast in stone result positive of Bipolar, Alzheimer’s, Dementia or any other mind altering medical condition.

These conditions of the mind are not like being pregnant that chemically changes the entire human bodies chemistry. Don’t ever think that you can diagnose a child or anyone simply by spitting in a cup and sending it off to some lab that has unknown conditions for testing your samples. That is where the dangers of this miss appropriated use of a general knowledge of the bodies DNA and chemical properties can be greatly mistreated.

One of the things that scares me about this type of alleged science is the simple fact that is not regulated or perfected and the possible abuse that it will cast forth on millions of innocent people will never be known. I can literally picture someone thinking their child might be bipolar and rather than spend the time with therapists and doctors they choose the unproven method of spitting in a cup and it becomes biblical results to the parents. Same thing goes for someone that thinks they might have Alzheimer’s disease and spitting in a cup with positive results ends up destroying the future they had as a person.

You can never replace the serious education it takes to actually treat someone with Bipolar conditions. Many of the drugs needed to help someone with symptom’s similar to bipolar have been tested and proven to work for years before actually on the market. In some cases it could be as simple as vitamin deficiencies to help the patient brain chemistry and in others it may take a combination of prescription drugs but being Bipolar is treatable.

What I truly find ironic about this testing by spitting in a cup will be substituted by many as real health care by people without health insurance. That is how this story and diagnosing anyone with a mental health issue will find the abuse of a very willing open unregulated market that does not care what you do with the results as long as your check clears.

Thank you UMASS Medical and Transitions for stabilizing what was once a child diagnosed as possibly Bipolar. The future is far better than the past and true mental health professionals made that possible.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Recent studies have attested to the fact that depression has a number of genetical factors attached to it. Depression does come to the next generations if the members of the previous generation have had instances of depression. Especially bipolar depression has been proven to come down to the next generations in case the previous generations had it.

4:00 AM  
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2:30 AM  

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