Could a blood test help you know your risk of these conditions?
Many mental health concerns are diagnosed and treated through a process of trial and error. For the one in four people worldwide who will suffer a depressive episode at some point in their life, this process can be challenging and long.
As scientists continue to study mental health issues like depression and bipolar disorder, a recent trial found a way to use a blood test to determine the severity of patients’ depression, their risk of developing severe depression in the future and their risk of bipolar disorder. The blood test may also help doctors determine what medication patients need.
“This is exciting news as it helps us move psychiatric diagnosis closer to objective measures,” said Dr. Munther Barakat, director of Behavioral Health Therapy at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital. “By having objective measures, it improves treatment and helps us measure a patient’s response to treatment.”
Current ways to diagnose patients can be complicated, since many mental health concerns have similar symptoms. Physical ailments can even mask symptoms of a mental health disorder, making effective diagnosis and treatment even more difficult. It can also be challenging to figure out what kind of treatment would help the most without having solid information on how a patient is currently doing and how likely their condition is to get worse. The new test may be able to help.
There are common signs that someone might be struggling with a mental health disorder. If you are having a harder and harder time getting through each day, you should talk to your doctor. A decline in self-care or responsibilities falling through the cracks are other signs that you should look for. In general, taking care of yourself is always a healthy step.
“We can always be proactive in taking care of our mental health by being more diligent and mindful of engaging in self-care,” said Dr. Barakat. “It can help to make sure you are eating well, exercising and taking time to be involved in activities you enjoy. Learning and practicing mindfulness activities are also great ways to care for your own mental health.”
If you are concerned that someone you know may be struggling with their mental health, it’s important to stay connected with them. Make yourself available to support and be willing to listen.
About the Author
Ben Hoekstra is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked in marketing and PR for various Milwaukee nonprofits and received his master’s degree in Corporate Communications from Marquette University. He enjoys the outdoors, cooking, and all things Milwaukee.