A major study has found that versions of four different genes increase the chances of developing five psychiatric disorders: autism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia.
The study into mental health conditions, reported in medical journal The Lancet compared the genetic codes of 33,000 people who have a psychiatric disorder and 28,000 people who don’t.
It was found that four genetic variants increased the risk of all five disorders, with two of the genes identified as being involved in the balance of calcium within the brain.
These findings may suggest that people who suffer from one mental health condition may be more susceptible to other disorders on the list, and could hold the key to new treatments and ways of managing mental health.
Understanding what is happening in the brains of people with known psychiatric disorders may also provide new ways of diagnosing and quantifying such conditions.
Biological information of this kind may also help to move psychiatry away from diagnosing and treating resultant symptoms and more towards understanding the cause of certain disorders, which ultimately could, one day, pave the way for prevention and even cure for psychiatric disorders of this type.
In the meantime, it is important to remember that the vast majority of mental health conditions are largely well described and understood by the medical community, and can now be treated effectively, whether with drug treatments or with talking therapies and ongoing support.
If you are worried about your own mental health, talk to your doctor and visit mind.org.uk for advice and support on all mental health conditions.