Psychiatric Diagnosis and Genetics

An interesting piece by Vaughan Bell of Mind Hacks. He notes that recent studies in medical genetics tend to undermine the foundations of some psychiatric diagnoses. At Mind Hacks he summarizes as follows:

The “mental illness is a genetic brain disease” folks find that their evidence of choice – molecular genetics – has undermined the validity of individual diagnoses, while the “mental illness is socially constructed” folks find that the best evidence for their claims comes from neurobiology studies.

And here’s a snippet from the Observer piece he wrote, well worth a read:

This new realisation rests on evidence that genetic factors initially associated with, for example, schizophrenia have now been recognised as equally important in raising the risk for several other problems including epilepsy, attention deficit disorder, autism and learning disability.

If you speak the language of science, there’s also a link to a British Journal of Psychiatry review article on the topic:

There is accumulating evidence for shared genetic as well as environmental risk between intellectual disability and other conditions with a neurodevelopmental basis such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, epilepsy and schizophrenia. These can be conceived as lying along a continuum of genetically and environmentally induced neurodevelopmental causality.

As usual, not suggesting diseases such as schizophrenia don’t exist — but our understanding of their causes is far from complete. And of course, DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is slated to come out this May 2013.