Why are multiple diagnoses common with mental disorders?
It's common for people who have one mental illness to be diagnosed with two more. For example, people with depression usually also have anxiety disorder and/or schizophrenia. Such patients tend to feel unlucky. "Why me?" they might ask.
But quite interestingly and rather fortunately, such people are not even the exception. They are the norm. In fact, more than 50% of people diagnosed with one mental illness will later be diagnosed with another one or two.
But why do I consider it fortunate?
Treating multiple disorders at once is challenging. They most times require different drugs, approaches, etc.
But here's what a new study shows: subsets of mental disorders—including depression and anxiety; bipolar and schizophrenia; OCD and anorexia nervosa—share a common genetic architecture.
What does that mean?
Say, you have a cold. Chances are you'd experience cough, sneezing, and aching joints. But would you want to be diagnosed with a coughing disorder, sneezing, and aching disorder in addition to a cold disorder? Of course not. That's because the others are merely symptoms, or subsets, of the cold. They all share the same architecture.
Meaning if you treat the cold, you'd be inadvertently treating the sneezing and aching knees as well.
And that's why the comorbidity among mental disorders is rather fortunate.
If two comorbid mental disorders share the same genetic architecture, it would be easier to treat both of them at once. It would be a case of killing two birds with one stone.
In the study, the researchers found that bipolar disorder and schizophrenia share 70% of the same genetic signal. There's also a very large overlap between major depressive and anxiety disorders.
More on the research here.
If you've been feeling unlucky for having two or more mental issues at the same time, hopefully, this news will bring you a sigh of relief.
In the near future, we could be seeing more targeted treatments that could help address those conditions with one single therapy. What's more, that will make the treatment easier on you, won't it? Fewer meds, name it.
We can help
While more research needs to be done, why wait? No matter the psychiatric issue you're facing, we want to help you fight back and regain your quality of life. Come, let's talk.