Getting an Accurate Diagnosis: Genesight Helps, but Chances are You’re Not Bi-Polar

Genesight is a genetic test that helps prescribing clinicians gain insight into what psychotropic medications (primarily antidepressants and anti psychotics) are likely to work best for a person based on their genetic makeup. The test involves a simple cheek swab and testing at a laboratory. Research to date has produced excellent results. What folks seem to misunderstand is that the test is NOT a diagnostic tool. It is simply an indicator of which meds will work best. It assumes the person is accurately diagnosed.

Getting the right diagnosis is largely dependent upon accurate self reporting. What we find too painful or too embarrassing to share with our doctors and clinicians can (and frequently does) lead to inaccurate findings. The most commonly excluded contributing factors are: substance abuse and addiction, abuse from family of origin, domestic violence, sexual assault, and other forms of trauma we’ve survived.

Mental health is anything but an exact science. There’s a great deal of overlap in the symptoms of different disorders. Here’s the problem – treatment of every kind is guided by diagnosis and if we’re treating the wrong condition everything we do is likely to be ineffective. This is the downfall of the medical model and evidence based practice (bullshit alert) – it treats conditions and not PEOPLE.

“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.” – Patch Adams

There’s an old expression that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Sometimes it’s not. There are a multitude of conditions and life experiences that strongly resemble conditions that we KNOW are over diagnosed – most notably Bi Polar Disorder. I’m pretty sure my cat is Bi Polar and according to my television requires large quantities of Abilify. (I’m just kidding – I don’t own a cat).

Alcoholism and addiction look a lot like Bi Polar Disorder. Anxiety and depression are often co-occurring and is often misinterpreted as Bi Polar Disorder. PTSD (especially when acute) can resemble Bi Polar Disorder. Brief visits with your primary care physicians and pill mill psychiatric practices are utilizing cookie cutter approaches and yielding inaccurate results.

The problem is it almost seems to work – you feel depressed (ever notice how everyone is depressed and no one is sad?) and so you take a mood stabilizer and you feel a little better. This seems to confirm that the doctor was right – that you do indeed live with Bi Polar Disorder. In truth, mood stabilizers treat depression and mania. If you don’t live with Bi Polar disorder then the only benefit of the mood stabilizer is the antidepressant quality of the drug – everything else that’s in your Lamictal, Depakote or (cringe) Lithium is something you not only don’t need but also something your body doesn’t want.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter. Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes the real issue is that we’re self medicating with drugs and alcohol. Sometimes we’re simply unable to deal with what’s on our plate. For those with organic illnesses, medication can be helpful or even necessary. For the rest of us – let’s look at what really needs to change and choose full disclosure in order to get our needs met.

 

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in assisting people in recovery (whether from drugs, alcohol, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.