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Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder: Gene Link?

Study Shows Family Connections for Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia

'Time to Rethink Disorders'

"It is time that we rethink the way we view these disorders," study co-author Christina Hultman, PhD, tells WebMD. "And it is clear that we need more genetic studies to help us better understand this shared risk."

In an editorial accompanying the study, Cardiff University dean of medicine Michael Owen, MD, PhD, suggested that the earlier family studies were far too small to show the genetic link between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

In an interview with WebMD, Owen called the latest research very strong, with major implications for how patients are managed.

"When someone receives a diagnosis of schizophrenia it is easy for clinicians to overlook mood disorder and other symptoms that don't fit with that diagnosis," he says. "The same is true for psychotic symptoms that may occur in people labeled with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder."

He adds that it is important for clinicians to recognize that symptoms can, and often do, change over time.

"Most patients don't fit neatly into categories, and the more questions you ask the more likely you are to find a combination of psychotic and mood symptoms," he says.

John H. Krystal, MD, of Yale University Medical Center and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, agrees.

He tells WebMD that psychiatry has long struggled with "a gray zone" of patients who do not neatly fit into the categories of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

He adds that the new research could have major implications for the development of new treatments for the psychiatric disorders.

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