Genetic Counseling: Changing the Landscape of Mental Illness
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Undergraduate honors program / Open Access
When most people think of genes and the way DNA impacts their bodies, they think of physical characteristics such as appearance, body type, diseases and overall physical health. Individuals usually put the mind, what is thought to be a more metaphysical aspect of our beings, in a different category. This distinction has kept mental health and psychological treatment in a separate category from health and the hard sciences. However, in the last century, breakthrough discoveries have proved the link between the mind and biology to be stronger than had been anticipated. The biological underpinnings of many mental illnesses have directed scientists towards research that strengthens the ever-growing correlation between genes and mental health. Based on biological differences between individuals with mental illness and those without, scientists have been able to identify candidate genes linked to these illnesses and use twin and adoptee studies to distinguish between genetic and environmental factors. Mental illnesses with strong correlations to genes include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, alcohol use disorder and eating disorders. While the field of genetic counseling has traditionally been used to identify, educate, and manage individuals at increased risk or affected with certain physical diseases, as science progresses, genetic counseling can play a key role in treating and preventing mental illness as well. Genetic counselors can use family history, send for genetic tests that determine susceptibility to mental illness and work with patients and their families on ways to prevent onset of disease or mitigate symptoms. Ultimately, this can change the lives of so many who suffer with mental illness in their families as well.
Rockoff, S. (2022, May). Genetic Counseling: Changing the Landscape of Mental Illness. Undergraduate honors program, Yeshiva University.
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