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    At-Home Bipolar Disorder Test: Help or Hindrance?

    Advocates say it helps doctors make an accurate diagnosis, but critics say more research is needed.

    The Bipolar Test: How It Works continued...

    A second genetic test is also available. It predicts a patient's likely response to serotonin-based drugs, the most widely prescribed class of psychiatric drug therapy today, according to the Psynomic web site. It also costs $399. If both tests are ordered together, the cost is $750.

    Tests are analyzed at a lab regulated by the state and by federal standards under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988.

    The saliva is tested for GRK3 mutations linked to bipolar disorder. The results are sent to the patient's doctor, who discusses them with the patient.

    Home Bipolar Disorder Test: How Accurate?

    Schalling says the bipolar test is very accurate in detecting the genetic variant. "This test can tell you almost 100% if you have the risk variant," he says.

    But it isn't meant to be used in isolation. "The test is really no good on its own," Schalling says. "The test must be used in combination with family history and the clinical picture."

    According to Psynomics, bipolar disorder is largely hereditary, with inherited factors perhaps explaining as much as 70% of the cases.

    Although the results are accurate, a definite prediction of bipolar disorder remains elusive. "This is a test that works, but it does not provide a huge amount of power, a huge amount of certainty," Schalling says. As more discoveries are made about other genes that are important in predicting bipolar disorder, that power is expected to increase.

    Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder

    Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is marked by mood shifts, and these shifts can be subtle or dramatic, making it difficult to diagnose the disorder. Generally, it is lifelong, with recurring episodes of mania and depression that can last from days to months, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

    Symptoms of mania can include:

    • Increased activity or energy
    • Severe irritability
    • An overly good, very euphoric mood
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Lack of good judgment
    • Need for very little sleep
    • Inability to stay "on topic"
    • Lavish spending
    • Boost in sex drive
    • Drinking too much alcohol or abusing drugs or sleep medications
    • Aggressive or provocative behavior

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