Study seeks to end guesswork for diagnosing mental illness

Researchers at the University of Georgia have identified several biological markers for mental disorders.

The research, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, could lead to improved diagnostics and treatments for mental illness, they say.

There are no objective medical tests to diagnose mental disorders, which means that doctors treating mental illness often rely on guesswork and trial and error.

Brett Clementz, the study’s lead author, said: ‘Psychiatry still relies on symptoms as the basis of a diagnosis. It would be like using the presence of fever to diagnose a specific infection. We need some means to help us more accurately differentiate mental disorders.’

Clementz and his colleagues have created an experimental programme that uses neurobiological measures to identify mental disorders. They aimed to differentiate between types of psychosis, which is a category of conditions ranging from schizophrenia to bipolar disorder.

Mental health professionals use criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, to identify specific mental disorders based on reported symptoms. ‘We wanted to try to provide neurobiological underpinnings for DSM-type psychosis diagnoses,’ Clementz said.

The researchers tested over 700 patients with psychosis. They were given examinations and an MRI scan to identify different ‘biotypes’ of mental disorders. They say that these proved to be superior to the traditional criteria.

The researchers hope that their work will inspire a renewed interest in psychiatric drug development, which has been hampered by a lack of clear biological evidence.

Clementz said:

‘Psychiatry has relied mostly on serendipity for new drugs. All of the medications that we use for psychosis have mostly the same mechanism of action, and there are no unique treatments for the various diagnoses.

‘You can’t, for example, use an animal model for schizophrenia. How do you find a schizophrenic mouse? But if we can identify a biological mechanism that contributes to disease, then we may reinvigorate drug development, and that’s what we’re trying to provide.’

  • selfhelp

    i would like to add my part in mental health diagnosis i belive threw life as we grow and experince things tht arent good it leaves a mark and as we continue and dont erase that mark it will remain n start to feed off each bad moment in life that can leave u paranoid overthinker distrusting depressed scared etc. But something ive experienced in life alot of it is to do with our own disbelief in ourselves and the way people your around threw life can be that escelates bad feelings which creates a wide range of mental health.. Also medication isnt the key to helping it blocks it for longer but doesnt cure, something else ive came to learn threw having anxiety being there for sumone who had mental health for 5 year all that was done was constant talking of all his life ova and ova-no good, filt with different medication simmers the triggers but long enough use creates a new low mood the best form of help would be being taught t uderstand each feeing recognise ur triggers and learning how to prevent a episode self helping watever is best fr urself i.e quigong meditation mind body and sole, i will honstlly stand by this 100% i tried and the differencee i felt afterwards was amazing and drug free

    • Rocksy

      Couldn’t agree more. Have worked for many years with people who would have been ‘diagnosed’ with some sort of ‘mental illness’. Drugs are a menace and create more problems.