When we are mentally stable, we can handle the challenges and obstacles that life throws at us. When we aren’t, simple tasks like making a cup of coffee before work can feel overwhelming, and you may wonder how you are going to get through your day. Let alone the rest of your week. Life experiences, relationships, and the status of our physical health all influence how we feel about ourselves and interact with others. Things might get tough to handle sometimes, but through processing and self-care, we pull ourselves out of it and move on. An unhealthy state of mind can lead to psychological and physical illnesses, but mental illness is not the same as mental health. 

Regardless of age, mental illness can affect anyone. It refers to a wide range of disorders that affect your mood, thoughts, and behavior. It can take many forms, from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Signs, symptoms, and challenges aren’t always visible. Some you may recognize immediately, and some not at all. According to statistics, In the United States, 46.4% of adults (almost half of the population) will experience mental illness in his or her lifetime. In the past year, only 41% of those decided to receive professional health care services. With the right medications and treatment, people can and do recover from mental illness. Pharmacogenetic testing is beginning to play a significant role in that.

Pharmacogenetic testing is a powerful tool that is changing the field of psychiatry. Sufferers of mental illness tend to take psychotropic medication, which works to balance out the mind, emotions, and behavior that may appear out of control. For many years, psychiatrists and pharmacists have struggled to understand the relationship between drug sensitivities and adverse drug reactions, but due in part to pharmacogenetics, the correlation is becoming more apparent. As patients and doctors in this field become more knowledgeable about pharmacogenetics, testing is being used to tailor psychotropic medications to the right patient, leading to more positive outcomes.

Mental health encompasses thousands of unwanted thoughts and negative emotions

Psychiatric Medication and Pharmacogenomics

There is no magic recipe that makes a drug work the same for you as it does someone else. According to research, antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs are being widely studied for pharmacogenomic abnormalities because of the way they operate. These drugs, in particular, release doses of serotonin and dopamine, but some individuals might experience a delay in response or experience no effect from them at all. With a simple cheek swab, pharmacogenetic testing results can guide the use of anxiolytics, mood stabilizers, and stimulants based on your genetic profile. 

Common side effects of psychiatric medications include drowsiness, dry mouth, nausea, memory impairment, and restlessness. If you’ve taken these medications over long periods, you increase your chances of developing long-term side effects. Pharmacogenomics is the study of how genes affect the body’s response to drugs. Taking a pharmacogenetic test will help you discover how your body processes specific medication. That can empower your physician or psychiatrist to tailor a prescription drug strategy that is specific to you – eliminating unwanted side effects and keeping you out of the hospital.

Benefits of Pharmacogenetic Testing for Mental Health

Every individual is unique, but we are all fighting an inside battle that outsiders can’t see. If you have a mental illness, you may feel like a lab rat from undergoing excessive medication trials and error. Pharmacogenetic testing is evolving to personalize psychiatric prescriptions among patients. That is because many psychotropic drugs lead to various response rates and a massive range of dangerous side effects that could be fatal. Genetic variations are responsible for the uncertainty, and knowledge of a patient’s genetic profile can help tailor a treatment plan that will lead to a more successful outcome.

The reality is that people who suffer from mental illness are two and a half more likely to experience a fatality than someone in the general population. The stigma that surrounds mental illness and the barriers to mental health care access are significant issues that America faces every day. Pharmacogenetic testing aims to improve medication adherence, reduce adverse reactions to specific drugs, and increase treatment efficiency. As pharmacogenetic testing moves toward personalizing psychotropic medication to eliminate adverse drug reactions and reduce hospitalizations, more doctors will begin implementing this type of genetic test into therapy. 

When PGX testing is performed sensibly and evaluated properly, it can be a powerful tool to maximize treatment response and tolerability of medications commonly used to treat mental health disorders. Ultimately, results may not guide your physician in choosing a more effective medicine, but they can influence your initial form of treatment and dosage. In routine psychiatric treatment cases, PGX testing is not always necessary, but the results can be remarkably useful if you often experience intolerable side effects from medications. Such detailed results can improve clinical outcomes and give you greater satisfaction when it comes to your personalized health care journey.

Pharmacogenetic testing is on its way to personalizing mental health medication

Pharmacogenetics and Genetic Counseling

When you submit your genetic sample to a laboratory, state-of-the-art next-generation sequencing technology, and innovative software, decode your genetics and turn them into an easy-to-read actionable insight report. The detailed report illustrates which genes are responsible for how your body processes different medications, psychotropic, among others. When you choose to take a pharmacogenetic test, this information can help your doctor optimize a prescription treatment plan that is suitable to your genetic makeup. However, you should seek the support of a geneticist for accuracy before discussing the results with your physician. 

When you receive your pharmacogenetic testing results, you should never attempt to interpret them yourself. You might end up misinformed, and that’s the opposite of their intention. Consider reviewing your report with a genetic counselor so that he or she can walk you through what they mean, and guide you toward the next steps. You should anticipate an informative and engaging conversation that lasts 30 minutes or longer if you need more time. A genetic counselor can explore your family’s health history and discuss your reasoning for taking a pharmacogenetic test. You’re highly encouraged to bring a spouse, family member, or friend with you to the appointment so that they can ask questions you may not consider.