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Science Technology

Anxiety Disorders Discoverable by Blood Test 407

Tomer Yaffe writes to tell us that researchers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem have discovered a technique to diagnose anxiety disorders with a simple blood test. From the article: "The researchers hope that the anxiety blood test will soon make its way into hospitals and E.R. rooms and give doctors and psychiatrists a quick and precise tool for examining, and eventually treating, these disorders." The team has also set their sights on depression, hoping for a similar technique to detect these types of disorders as well.
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Anxiety Disorders Discoverable by Blood Test

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  • Oh wonderful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by USSJoin ( 896766 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:08PM (#13759450) Homepage
    Because that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we want to do with people with anxiety disorder: suck out their blood. That couldn't *possibly* make anyone... anxious, or worried. Nope. Not a chance of that.
  • Screening (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:08PM (#13759453)
    Perfect for screening potential employees as well!
  • Dangerous (Score:4, Insightful)

    by manonthemoon ( 537690 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:09PM (#13759460) Homepage
    I doubt these kind of issues can be singled out by a blood test. I'm sure they are finding some subset of those with an anxiety issue, but they will overlook others with similar issues because "it didn't show up on the test."

    The last thing we need are doctors relying even *more* upon tests rather than listening to their patients.
  • by Loundry ( 4143 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:14PM (#13759494) Journal
    For those of you not in the know, Obsessive-Compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder.

    I read TFA.

    The problem I see with this kind of testing is the cases where the diagnosed individual refuses treatment. The stigma against being labeled as "crazy" is still crushingly huge, and this is a signifigant reason why many people who suffer from emotional disorders refuse to seek treatment. They see it as a sign of weakness, of "not being able to handle things themselves."

    So I forsee and fear individuals getting stuck with a (mandatory) needle then being told, "You are anxious", and "You must submit to treatment". The world knows no shortage of elitist M.D.s who hate the notion of a patient not obeying their very learned whim. Why not use the police to force these people into treatment? Perhaps I'm just being paranoid [altheal.org].

    Or maybe I'm just anxious...
  • by nefarity ( 633456 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:14PM (#13759497)
    There's a difference between anxiety and anxiety disorders. What you've written is completely off topic.
  • by kaosrain ( 543532 ) <[moc.niarsoak] [ta] [toor]> on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:15PM (#13759500) Homepage
    I disagree. While I feel that recovery should be placed upon the patient, it is important to let them know that they are not responsible for causing the disorder. My significant other was extremely bothered and felt that she was a failure for having an anxiety disorder, but I remind her that "(She) isn't responsible for having the disorder, but she is responsible for her recovery."
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:17PM (#13759524)
    Although I can understand helping people who have debilitating neuron-chemical imbalances, I'm not sure that everyone should be normalized. The world needs both risk-takers (hyper-actives) and risk-avoiders (anxiety-prone) to both spur innovation and create solutions that minimize deleterious consequences.

    Note: I'm no a fan of PC (politically-correct) diversity, but do see value in variety to maximize total economic performance across a range of conditions and fields of endeavor.

  • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:22PM (#13759552)
    As somebody in the medical field (or soon to be), are you a proponent of using drugs to treat anxiety? I've heard reports that some of the drugs frequently have awful side effects, and can become very addicting and very difficult to ease off of. There have even been consumer lawsuits against various pharmas, if I'm not mistaken.

    That said, if such a test were used to identify those suffering from such illnesses, would you as a clinician prescribe such drugs, or would you focus on alternative therapies?

  • by TheNarrator ( 200498 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:31PM (#13759624)
    Prozac has changed things but there is this pervasive idea that mood is completely under ones control and that all one needs is determination to snap out of any mood and become the most successful happy person in the world. Happy people tell depressed people naively, "Why don't you just snap out of it?". The problem is is that you can't simulate another persons brain chemistry. You can't even simulate your own brain chemistry from mood to mood. Ever walk by two people yelling and screaming at each other and start thinking, "What's up with them?". Have you ever been those two people yelling and screaming at some point in your life? When we're happy we couldn't imagine how we were sad. When we're sad we couldn't imagine how we could have been happy.

    When we eliminate something that wastes the lives of 13% of the population, and if you've ever known someone with an anxiety disorder you'll know how much of their life they waste, won't that improve the human condition more than just about anything else? What's better, is these fixes to mental health improve things throughout society, letting people avoid destructive compulsions and reach their full potential.

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak@@@yahoo...com> on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:40PM (#13759687) Homepage Journal
    ...aren't taken seriously. There is no one cause, no one element, in ANY disorder, so there is no one place you can treat that will remedy that disorder. Simply telling the person to buck up won't help them - but if you charge $200 for every time you tell them that, it might make you very rich. Especially as it won't cure them, guaranteeing repeat custom.

    "Fixing" the person is like walpapering a house with collapsed foundations. It'll make the problem invisible... for a while. But unless you fix the foundations, the house will still fall down. Likewise, fixing the foundations alone may prevent further damage, but the inside of the house will still look a wreck.

    The job of ANYONE in (or around) mental health is to correct all of the aspects of the mental health problem they are dealing with. A partial solution can be worse than no solution at all, especially if you keep telling the patient that it's all the patient's fault/responsibility.

    Establishing a cause, like faulty genes, allows the patient to remedy the underlying problem. Most genetic or biological problems are solvable with the right regemen, but unless you identify those underlying issues, you will NEVER identify the regemen that needs to be followed. And the patient will suffer the consequences of your inaction by deteriorating further. However, such treatment will only ever stabilize a condition. It won't cure it. Curing DOES require the patient to take responsibility for their actions, for their lives and for getting better.

    To ask them to take that responsibility whilst their brain is chemically or electically up the spout, though, is about as intelligent as telling the skydiver whose parachute has failed that all they need do is flap their arms faster. Hardware failure requires a hardware solution. Software failure (in this case, the mind of the person) requires a software solution. NEVER assume that hardware will fix faulty software, or software will ever compensate for defective hardware.

    Remedy the fault, NOT the fault's owner.

  • Re:Dangerous (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TrappedByMyself ( 861094 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:42PM (#13759703)
    I doubt these kind of issues can be singled out by a blood test.

    No shit, Sherlock. You've just oversimplified the situation, then complained that it was too simple.

    This is no different than any other medical test. Patient complains and doctor takes complaints + test results + research + experience to figure out what's going on. Complaints + results don't jive? Well, then more questions, tests, research, querying other doctors.
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @06:10PM (#13759907)
    Tom Cruise is a typical example of a Scientologist well-treated by that organization because he is a wealthy celebrity. Hubbard himself, in his own writings on Scientology, pointed out that it is important to get as many well known people on board as possible, in order to legitimize Scientology in the public's eyes.

    In any event, Cruise is a fruitcake who should simply get less media time for his outbursts. Sure, you don't want to put somebody on a pill because they had a bad hair day or are just going through a difficult time in their lives. But my father suffered severe clinical depression for the last twenty years of his life, and no amount of imagination and exercise would ever have reversed that. It wasn't until he was put on one of the early antidepressants that he got his life back, and returned to being the father I had always known. People like Cruise should either get medical degrees and learn some facts, or just shut the hell up. God, that man irritates me.

    I hope he eventually suffers from clinical depression. We'll see how long it takes him to give up his Scientological "principles" and get on the proper medication. Maybe he won't ... and we'll read about his suicide. One can always hope.
  • by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @06:29PM (#13760034)
    despite the headlines, please don't mistake this for a test for anxiety disorder.

    This is a test for the chemical indicators of anxiety itself, a positive test would indicate anxiety not the disorder. Anxiety itself is a natural response to certain perceived situations. A disorder would still have to be identified by careful observation and a history of anxiety in situations most people aren't anxious about or anxiety levels that don't diminish in normal period of time after a perceived threat. So, you would need to test over a period of time and perhaps before, during and after exposing a person to some situation that would normally cause anxiety.

    Of course, if needles make you anxious, then the test won't tell you anything except who doesn't like needles.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2005 @06:29PM (#13760038)
    I have a wonderful umbrella of anxiety disorders. A bunch of random everyday worries that don't fall under a specific category, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and social phobia.

    While I would never take this particular test (I've struggled with getting a flu shot in a 20 minute arguement with my doctor, no way in hell I'd willingly get blood drawn), I do agree with it. It's not about "making these people normal", they know they have a problem and they're seeking help for it. Which is why they're having the test taken in the first place.

    There is a difference between "risk avoiders" and people with anxiety disorders. The former have that as a characteristic of their personality, which is you, and should not be changed. The latter is from a neurochemical imbalance that this test detects, and let me tell you, the symptoms are terrible and drastically effect your everyday life. For /years/ I couldn't call people without planning out the situation and calming myself down. Calling people! This isn't a business decision or anything like that.

    While I agree with your point of view, I think it's flawed. People aren't being "normalized", and the characteristics that fall into the realm of "anxiety disorder" are a lot worse then you seem to imagine.
  • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @06:40PM (#13760099)

    Like so many other "discoverable" attributes, this could easily backfire. If an employer/insurer is ever in such a position to perform a blood test of any kind, there's not a whole lot sitting between your sample, and them acquiring a lot of extra information about you.
  • by theonetruekeebler ( 60888 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @07:10PM (#13760246) Homepage Journal
    The problem I see with this kind of testing is the cases where the diagnosed individual refuses treatment.

    I can see this being the case for many types of mental illness, such as schizophrenia, but anxiety disorders are a little different. People come into the emergency room absolutely convinced that they are dying or having a heart attack or really going full-blown crazy. They know something is wrong, and the overwhelming majority of them will be very relieved to hear the doctor say "You're not dying. You're not going crazy. You have a treatable condition called generalized anxiety disorder. We can start working on it right now if you'd like."

    If anything I'd worry about some patients might feel a little let down, having something as mundane as "generalized anxiety disorder. For them, instead of calling it "generalized anxiety disorder" I would call it "Barris's Anxiety Disorder" or some other made-up name---that way it sounds like they're fucked up in a particular way, rather than just generally fucked up. They'll feel special, hell, even brag to their friends. Either way, as long as they seek treatment they'll be happier.

  • by njh ( 24312 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @07:57PM (#13760507) Homepage
    The only problem with this is that the blood test has no more found the cause than ticking off symptoms on a list finds the cause. Medicine is filled with stories about confusing correlation with causation (c.v. this year's nobel prize for finding the cause of gastric ulcers). And I think that most psychological problems are indeed software or environmental, it's just that we aren't very good at finding the bugs. (it's all very well fixing the foundations, but it may be that the problem with the house is that it is built in a swamp)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2005 @08:25PM (#13760699)
    There is no one cause, no one element, in ANY disorder, so there is no one place you can treat that will remedy that disorder.

    We used to say that kind of thing about ulcers - that they needed to be attacked with medications to control gastic acid, huge changes in diet, stress control, very often surgery... Then we found out nearly all ulcers are caused by a simple bacterial infection. A round of the right antibiotic and they go away. See the recent Nobel.

    When discussing a disease and I see all sorts of handwaving about how there are so many factors, and everyone is different, and there are 80 different potential causes and treatments... I tend to think it's just a disease we don't understand very well yet. Yes, psychological disorders are probably more complex than many other diseases, but generally I think the science of the mind is largely undiscovered and many times we're just poking around in the dark.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2005 @08:38PM (#13760783)
    Yes, but it just as strongly provides a cop-out mechanism with which the patient may absolve herself of her responsibility to recover. Besides, the science of measuring changes in brain and blood chemistry, then these changes for mood swings concurrent with the change, is shaky at best. It will be a long time before humans fully understand neuro- and bio-chemistry and how they relate to the psyche, and until that day I am more than happy to keep my patients in the dark about it.

    (Apologies for the AC but I'd already moderated on this thread when I saw your comments)

    Ultimately, you get to decide how to manage your patients, and if they're comfortable with your approach, so be it. From my standpoint though, this is patronizing and if I ever found that my doctor was intentionally obscuring information to protect me, I'd walk out the door and would never come back. Actually, over the past 15 or so years, I have left two doctors over trust issues but for different cause (they weren't obscuring information; they were just BSing and they admitted it when I called them on it). Anyway, not faith building experiences. I assume you don't tell your patients that this is your modus operandi up front? I have a hard time imagining them trusting you afterwords.

    Anyway, I agree that neurochemistry is in its infancy, and I also agree that science often gets over sold, to the detriment of the credulous. No harm in teaching patients due skepticism. But that's a separate issue, apart intentionally deceiving one's patients for their supposed good.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2005 @09:26PM (#13761033)
    As somebody in the medical field (or soon to be), are you a proponent of using drugs to treat anxiety?

    As somebody with General Anxiety Disorder [mentalhealthchannel.net] I'm a firm proponent of using drugs to treat anxiety. I've found both Buspar and the occasional Xanax very helpful. Neither is the only solution, but both have been very useful in showing me how my life could be different, giving me incentive to do the rest of the work. I aim to taper off both eventually.

    A note to my fellow programmers and sysadmins: in retrospect, I think there's a much higher incidence of GAD in our ranks than in the general population. Why? Because being over-anxious helps us to be hyper-responsible about the details, but the in-control-of-your-own-world aspect of computers provides a safe, predictable environment that is very soothing.

    If you have a hard time relaxing, if you tend towards obsessiveness, if you are a pack rat, if you are known to snap at people, and if you are hyper-responsible in some things but sometimes freak out and utterly avoid others, it's worth talking to somebody about GAD. All of that was true about me, and all of those things are better now. A month-long trial of Buspar was like a light coming on: Aha! This is how other people are!

    In the two years since, here are the non-medication things I do to help:
    • regular sleep schedule
    • regular cardiovascular exercise
    • regular yoga
    • a nightly glass or two of red wine (I don't know why, but it has an effect that beer doesn't)
    • optimizing my life for minimal stress
    • plenty of sunlight
    • making sure to have fun

    All this has changed my life greatly for the better.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2005 @11:22PM (#13761667)
    She kept saying the same things about screwed up relationships, past traumas, blah blah blah... but she would never give me any answers or strengths on how to deal with the real issues that I have.

    Sounds like you've been scammed by some snake-oil amateur. In real Cognitive Behavioral Therapy your therapist will encourage you to avoid dwelling on past relationships and traumas, and will instead focus on your here-and-now, giving you advice, insights and homework for how to deal with situations now. Talking about past relationships and traumas may be useful in the beginning, but only to help with the diagnosis, and after that perhaps occasionally if you feel a need to talk about it, but she'll gently steer you away from dwelling too much on such things. In real Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the main focus is your present.

    Disclaimer: I'm no expert, I just have some kind of anxiety problem myself, and a good therapist.

    and listen to him talk about his support for the gay boys of SD.

    To me that sounds extremely unprofessional! A real therapist will focus on you, and will definitely not burden you with other people's problems, or vent his own feelings, or whatever he's doing.

    Maybe it would be a good idea for you to look for another therapist, this time checking credentials carefully, asking around for recommendations, and so on.

    In addition to professional expertise it's also a matter of "personal chemistry", spontaneous connection and trust. A therapist who is perfect for one person may be much less useful to another, simply because of this spontaneous connection.

    Good luck.
  • by winwar ( 114053 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @11:40PM (#13761834)
    Well, from your comment above, there is a reason you are a pharmacy tech and not a doctor....

    And mostly clueless.

    Medications are useful when prescribed properly. And no amount of therapy will help severe depression. Granted, getting the proper medication and dosing can be difficult. And if you think medication is costly, it is often cheap compared to therapy....

    "And I absolutely doubt the abilities of a doctor who speaks to a patient for only an hour a week then gives a few pills."

    That, btw, would be excellent medical care. Hell, an hour a month would be good...

    Of course, I wouldn't want to get any medication from any pharmacy you work in. I have severe doubts about your abilities from your lack of knowledge about competent medical care....

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this-- no dog exchanges bones with another. -- Adam Smith