Blood Tests for Mental Health

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Recent research is showing that it may be possible to diagnose mental health conditions through blood tests. It’s intriguing work. One of the most frustrating parts for patients with mental health issues is the process of diagnosing the condition. It’s a lot of trial and error and it takes a long time. Like with any illness, when you don’t feel right, you want answers, and you want them quickly. Mental health has always stubbornly refused. It would be great if that were to change.

I was doubtful when I first read headlines about the blood tests. As I talked about recently, there are often no pathogens involved in mental illness. What would they be looking for in the blood? It turns out, instead of looking for infection, or the cause of an illness, they look for traces of the way your body reacts to the condition. For example, in the article linked above, they say that checking levels of BDNF, a protein, was 82% effective in diagnosing depression. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I’ve moved from doubtful to hopeful.

It’s a bit hard to describe how great it would be to have a quick and easy diagnostic tool. When I first got my depression diagnosis, it took months. I kept going to my PCP because nothing felt right. He did test after test. It wasn’t mono or nutrient deficiency or a thyroid issue and on and on and on. He referred me to a psychologist. There were weeks of sessions and questionnaires and journaling. She did diagnose it, but then there was more time determining the severity. She then referred me to a psychiatrist, and we started medication. It took even more months to find the right combination of medications and the appropriate levels. That’s a ton of effort to put out while going through an active depressive episode.

I have no idea how good the blood tests will get. They may still have to rule out other conditions. They may still have to use trial and error for medications. But speeding up the process, even a little, would be huge. It would cut back on so much suffering. And that’s all we really want.

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