HOUSTON - Genetic testing has been around for years, but now some doctors are suggesting using it to test for a patient's probability of developing mental health disorders and treating issues ahead of time.
With a simple cheek swab, the Genomind mental health map provides detailed insight into what types of mental health disorders you could be genetically predisposed or vulnerable to developing, based on your DNA.
Dr. Bruce Kehr is the founder and president of Potomac Psychiatry.
"What we’re really mainly looking for is genes that make us vulnerable to certain conditions. Are we more vulnerable to anxiety? Are we more vulnerable to depression? Are more vulnerable to ADHD or bi-polar disorder or PTSD?" Kehr said.
For the last eight years, Dr. Kehr’s used genetic testing on thousands of patients to determine how susceptible they could be to life-altering events like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Depending on a person’s results, his recommended treatment ranges.
"What can we do about it in terms of prescription medication, supplements, diet, nutrition, lifestyle changes," said Kehr.
Perhaps most importantly, the results also provide hard evidence and data points that Dr. Kehr says erases the stigma centered around the subjectiveness of how mental health disorders should be addressed.
"Sometimes patients weep for joy because it finally explains what they’ve been feeling and they can go to their family members and say 'you see, it’s not a character failing, it’s not a failure of my will-power,'" said Kehr.
"Why wouldn’t we try to end the suffering of patients and their families as quickly as possible. This isn’t perfect. I’m not trying to represent this as some magic bullet or panacea but the data, the scientific literature more and more does show better outcomes, faster for many patients," Kehr continued.
But beyond an individual treatment basis, the question of how this data can be used poses a potentially ethical dilemma.
"We’re pretty good now at predicting who’s likely to develop PTSD at wartime. So the question becomes ok, do we then not send those people into war? What if those people are the ones that are least likely to commit atrocities? What if they have a greater moral compass because they’re more distressed by what’s going on," said Kehr.
Kehr adds that treatment recommendations and predispositions will also be updated as more data becomes available.
Kits could cost up to $500 depending on a patient's insurance plan.
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