Biploar, Depression, ADHD And Schizophrenia Share Common Genetic Issue

April 18, 2013

behavioral health treatment

by Jared Friedman


New study results are showing that bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and schizophrenia may all be linked to the same set of genes.

The implications of this on the industry of mental health could be exceptionally helpful. Those suffering for one of these extreme disorders could benefit greatly from the better understanding of why each person has the symptoms or full-blown disorder that’s presenting in his or her life.

Thousands Diagnosed

33,332 individuals, who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, autism, or major depressive disorder, were compared with a control group of 27,888 individuals, who have not been diagnosed with any of these disorders. The volume of people examined makes this the largest study of its kind, on this subject matter, ever conducted.

The study found that these five illnesses have common risk factors, mainly in flaws found on Chromosomes 2 and 10, and in two genes that are in charge of the flow of calcium in brain cells. While the genes and chromosomes themselves do not explain the occurrence of any of the listed disorders or the variation in symptoms that show up in different people as different disorders, the gene and chromosome identification serves as a piece of the puzzle that will help researchers and medical professionals better diagnose, treat, and develop new treatment options for those diagnosed with one of these illnesses.

Genetic Study Research

Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts and lead researcher is this genetic study, Dr. Jordan Smoller, states that: “This study, for the first time, shows that there are specific genetic variants that influence a range of childhood and adult-onset psychiatric disorders that we think of as clinically different. We also found that there was significant overlap in the genetic components of several disorders, especially schizophrenia with bipolar disorder and depression, and to a lesser extent autism with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.”

It may be important to know that other recent study findings indicate that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that is usually diagnosed in children, can go on to be a lifelong disorder carrying into adulthood. The understanding of ADHD can prevent a person from always being adversely affected by the disorder’s symptoms.

The Next Step

The next step, in Dr. Smoller’s opinion, is to determine how the genetic and chromosomal variations happen. Without direct clinical application now, the study results just take the knowledge about the physical component of each disorder to a place of further examination with a high need for subsequent research. Further research results can then be used to more appropriately classify each disorder, to better predict those who are most at risk for each disorder, and to develop better overall treatment, including medications, for each disorder.

The tricky part in all of this though is that someone can have the variations on the genes or chromosomes linked to bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, autism, or major depressive disorder and never show symptoms of any of these disorders. What does this mean? That a genetic or chromosomal abnormality does not automatically mean that one of these disorders is present in the individual.

Chromosomal Indicators

Dr. Smoller explains it as, “They [the genes and chromosomes] are not enough to predict any individual’s risk. And you might carry all of these variants and never develop a psychiatric disorder.” As of right now, the genetic and chromosomal indicators are just that, indicators, and tools that can be used to better understand what symptoms a person has been experiencing, but not as the be-all-end-all of bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, autism, or major depressive disorder diagnosis.

With this study as a great next step in the understanding of symptoms and the listed disorders, further research and investigation will ideally lead to better overall diagnosis, treatment, and even prevention of suffering from bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, autism, or major depressive disorder.


Author Bio: Jared Friedman is quality improvement manager for Sovereign Health Group a drug addiction center and mental health rehab center helping people with behavioral and addiction issues.