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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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  • by glen604 ( 750214 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:07PM (#13759437)
    then they'd be really screwed..

    Stop squirming away from the needle! We need to run this test on you!
  • As a psych student (Score:5, Informative)

    by kaosrain ( 543532 ) <[moc.niarsoak] [ta] [toor]> on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:07PM (#13759440) Homepage
    As a psych student planning on specializing in anxiety/depression, this is great news. A blood test would make it a lot easier for people to acknowledge that they have an anxiety disorder. Currently one of the greatest challenges a psychologist faces in these disorders is getting the patient to see that they really do have one and it is impacting them negatively.
    • by hvatum ( 592775 )
      This blood test could also help increase the appropriate perscription of scheduled anti-anxiety medications such as Valium. These Benzodiazepines are clinically the most effective treatment for anxiety but many doctors shy away from perscribing them due to their addictive potential for some drug users.

      By proving beyond all doubt the existence of an anxiety disorder this blood test could allow doctors to perscribe such medications without fear of having their license revoked for the over-perscription of a sc
    • I doubt the results of a blood test are going to sway the opinions of many partients. They'll just find a way to explain away the results. You'd be surprised how many people know the idea of a false positive.

      And I wonder how the results of this test can be affected by time. When someone has anxiety, it's a pervasive thing that affects their daily living. But what if someone hears anxiety-causing info just before the blood test, or what if hospitals and blood tests make you highly anxious? Will the test be

    • As a psych student planning on specializing in anxiety/depression, this is great news. A blood test would make it a lot easier for people to acknowledge that they have an anxiety disorder. Currently one of the greatest challenges a psychologist faces in these disorders is getting the patient to see that they really do have one and it is impacting them negatively.

      I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone who refuses to admit they have an anxiety disorder. However I know plenty of people who's doctors
    • You mean to tell me people aren't aware of anxiety? Anxiety is one of the most obvious effects of puberty. I cannot comprehend in any way someone who suffers from excessive anxiety and is not aware of the fact. Anxiety is as obvious to people as sex. Anxiety is the core of primitive behavior. (see: fight or flight)

      So why are you trying to convince someone they suffer from anxiety?

      This is one of the many problems I have with psychologists. The only thing psychologists have done is provide a successful theory
    • by fm6 ( 162816 )
      I agree that it's great news (if true), but I think "acknowledgment" is the least of our issues. I don't think there's that much resistance to acknowledging that a condition can be psychiatric. If anything, I think people (especially MDs who are having trouble pinning down a diagnosis with cognitive or behavioral symptoms) are too quick to label disorders with a convenient psychiatric labels. After all, concepts like "anxiety", "depression" and "attention deficit" (to name three of the most common labels)
    • 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.

  • 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!
  • My only worry (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ( 782137 ) <> on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:09PM (#13759454) Homepage Journal
    My only worry about this is that some people might just be feeling shitty, and wouldn't want to submit to a blood test. What if a person says they're anxious/depressed, but the blood test says otherwise? What do doctors believe?

    In any event, it'd probably be better if doctors got to work on making some antidepressants with less overt side effects before they learn to diagnose it...I mean I've just started taking Prozac, and already I'm getting headaches, and the leaflet with the pills has a whole lot more side effects to watch out for.
    • Maybe it would be better if the nurture (environment) part would be treated instead of the nature (DNA) side (as the article seems to suggest).

      On a side note: My wife took Prozac and turned bipolar as a consequence, so take care.

    • My only worry about this is that some people might just be feeling shitty, and wouldn't want to submit to a blood test. What if a person says they're anxious/depressed, but the blood test says otherwise? What do doctors believe?

      If the blood test comes back negative, then maybe it is not the anxiety disorder that the test was designed to test for. It could still be something else, something purely psychological, or something else entirely.

      A test never tells you that you are not sick. It can just tell you t
    • doctors believe blood tests way more than their patients.

      they no longer believe in "first, do no harm".

      now it's "first, get the money"

      drive thru doctors i call em.

      in and out as quickly as possible.

      sure there are still good doctors... somewhere. i might even meet one someday.

      Health "Maintenance" Organizations.... sort of like the PATRIOT act / DRM... named appropriately.
  • While I'm not a doctor, a lot of the most anxious people I know are heavy consumers of caffeine. They're the sort of people who drink three cups in the morning, followed by a Coke while at work, and then another cup of coffee and a chocolate bar snack on the way home, followed by a couple of cups of tea with dinner. And then they can't sleep, so they need to repeat the cycle again the next day, for years on end.

    The was one fellow I worked with, Trent, who was in that cycle, and was always very anxious and i
    • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:13PM (#13759485) Homepage Journal
      That makes anxiety easy to test for. If there's no blood in the caffeine stream, then they're suffering from excessive anxiety. You can then diagnose the type of anxiety by whether the largest fraction of non-caffeine substance is tea, coffee or chocolate.
    • So perhaps a good way to eliminate some forms of anxiousness is to stop consuming caffeine.
      Try not to be anxious about the hordes of Slashdotters now converging on your location with torches and pitchforks.

      In all serousness, though, I eliminated caffeine from my diet for several years (I have an occasional bit now and then these days) and I felt much better physically and mentally afterwards.
    • Stimulants, including caffeine, can indeed exacerbate anxiety in some people, but they are a minority of users. For most, stimulants improve concentration and task performance. A fairly interesting recent study detailing some of the mechanics and effects of caffeine is here [].

      Personally though, it's been my observation most people are prone to anxiety when having blood drawn or given an injection; I'm not necessarily sure that warrants medication.

      Caffeine also has another interaction with this test in tha

      • Can you provide more information regarding that study? Namely, how it was funded. Brazil does have somewhat of an industry producing cocoa. They're also amongst the largest (if not the largest) exporters of coffee. So I'm naturally weary of studies promoting the use of caffeine from a nation that depends significantly on the economic potential of caffeine.

        • Yes, many studies are funded by interests central to the study, and it seems possible this may influence the study in some cases. I do not know anything about that study in particular beyond what I have provided. There are many other studies on PubMed [] showing similar results for caffeine, though. Using the query terms "caffeine anxiety", "caffeine stroop", "caffeine concentration", etc may help you find more of what you're looking for.
    • by MoogMan ( 442253 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:30PM (#13759618)
      Perhaps anxious people go to Caffeine as an answer. Then get hooked on harder drugs such as Coding and Linux.
    • For personal reasons, I've done a lot of library research on anxiety. You can have very serious anxiety problems with using any caffiene. Not an MD, just an interested patient with a reading addiction.

      Too much caffeine can cause the same sort of symptoms as various anxiety disorders, but that's relatively easy to diagnose and treat. And cutting back or eliminating caffiene is almost always recommended in treatment of people with anxiety disorders. Caffiene can also make tranquilizers and other therapi

    • I always love that argument. And this quote is the first thing that hits me: "Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anyone."

      Basically, you're saying that someone that is probably taking far too much caffeine is having negative effects. That's not really surprising. I have 29 ounces or less of Coke each day, and that's about all the caffeine I have (occasionally I'll have a chocolate candy bar or something, but that's rare I believe that's roughly the same amount of caffeine as a single cup of coffee,
      • I'm sure a certain volume of caffeine affects different people to different extents. Nobody, except perhaps you, is suggesting otherwise.

        So while that amount of caffeine may not affect you in any way (perhaps because you're a large, burly man; am I right?), it may affect others. And there are people who drink far more than the single can of Coke, or whatever measure it was you used.

  • Many people who are reluctant to undergo this examination are left untreated and can continue to suffer for many years.

    So, if people are reluctant to undergo examination by a doctor what makes the researches believe that they will appreciate being stuck w/a needle and then have to sit around and wait out their results?
    • They'll get your blood when you show up in the ER with heart attack symptoms. This is often a panic sufferer's first contact with a doctor. You'll hardly notice the needle stick with everything else going on.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • I doubt these kind of issues can be singled out by a blood test.

      Yet another study to take with a large grain of salt. This "news" is a press release. Has it been reported in a medical journal? Has it been replicated by other researchers?

      The researchers say they found abnormal cholinesterase levels in 4 groups of people:

      "women, African-American, people with low Body Mass Index (BMI) and people who have suffered a previous trauma in their lives"

      Perhaps they have weighted their sample with people generally mor
  • Especially easy to spot during this blood test is the anxiety of needles.... []

  • What if I get panic attacks at the site of needles or blood?

  • Who needs tests when we have Tom Cruise to tell us that it's all in our imagination and we just need exercise to chase those blues away!
    • Excersize does help because it changes the biological underpinnings of depression, but this is different from anxiety. Nutrition helps. Sunlight helps. So do antidepressants.

      If Tom Cruise could actually wake up to the fact that sunlight, Prosac, and excersize have similar though quantitatively different effects on the brain, maybe he would wake up to the fact that Scientology is full of half-truths well told, though he cannot tell them half as well.

      Now, anxiety disorders are different than depression. I
    • by Frangible ( 881728 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:33PM (#13759643)

      Actually, exercise does increase the dopaminergic tone in the brain, the mechanism involved is a short-lived change in gene expression that upregulates calcium transport. It has also been shown to increase the number of dopamine receptors in animal models.

      This is relevant because the common mechanism of effect behind SSRI-based antidepressants involves the sensitization of the dopaminergic system via increased serotonin levels. Some antidepressant medication actually has no direct interaction with sertonin at all.

      This [] study shows an effectiveness of 50% of the use of exercise in relieving symptoms of depression, which is approximately that of antidepressant medication or cognitive behavioral therapy alone. Of course, it is likely the best results would come from a combination of all three.

    • 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.
  • "The team has also set their sights on depression, hoping for a similar technique to detect these types of disorders as well."

    NaCl present in blood, it must be depression
  • 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 [].

    Or maybe I'm just anxious...
    • Hopefully, this test will help the stigma of being labeled "crazy." If a psychologist tell you you're anxious, that's one thing. But if a blood test reveals a disorder, that's something else entirely in most people's minds, I'll bet. Hopefully this will help "legitimize" psychological disorders, and stop people from saying things like "just snap out of it."
    • 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.

    • by njh ( 24312 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @07:50PM (#13760479) Homepage
      I agree that a robust test for these diseases are important, but I have two concerns. Firstly, existing pharma treatments for anxiety are basically useless - consisting of chemically hitting the patient on the head repeatedly until they are too concussed to know whether they are anxious or not. The current trend is to prescribe various 'anti-depressants', which have no conclusive evidence that they work better than placebo, and leave the patient on them for weeks at a time.

      Secondly, this blood test means that a new symptomatic treatment is likely to be developed. The pharma companies will design a drug which nullifies the effect measured with the blood test, and will then proclaim loudly that they have cured anxiety. And sell lots of lifetime supplies of some random chemical with no useful effect.

      Incidently, I spent a year with GAD treated with the usual pointless chemicals before curing myself with kava, reliable sleep and CBT. Kava is fantastic for anxiety, btw - it is not habit forming, has a noticable effect within half an hour and gives you wonderful lucid dreams :) Pity it is banned from sale in most countries.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:16PM (#13759514)
    Interesting to see that they found a correlation between acetylcholine / acetylcholinesterase and anxiety disorders. It goes to show that the physical symptoms aren't just "in your head". Those two chemicals regulate the nervous system. You'll see that most nerve agents, such as VX, are acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.

    I would like to see someone take this new information and conduct another study of the people suffering from Gulf War syndrome - both with physical weakness and mental / anxiety problems. I bet they would discover that many of them were either exposed to a nerve agent or an antidote on some level. It's sad that so many veterans are suffering and our government has made no real effort to help them.
  • by matt me ( 850665 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:17PM (#13759520)
    If they won't let you take their blood for the test, they've got a disorder!
  • Anxiety Blood Test results to be tracked with RFID. IBM corporation swears there's nothing to be anxious about...
  • 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 Anonymous Coward
    Until now they typically diagnose by asking you some questions ("do you have thoughts of suicide? do you sleep ok?" etc.). If you're having a bad day or have your shit-colored glasses on for some other reason, it will color your responses.

    And then they try you on some anti-depressant and ask you the same questions 2 months later to see if it's working. If it's not working, they switch to another medication, rinse and repeat.

    This is seriously lame, and in the case of depression, might easily cause you to g
  • Say it isn't so... surely suicide bombers and general unrest, military police, guns, bombs, and other daily lifestyle activities in the holy city are not prone to create anxiety disorders!

    Geez, in a Jeruselem hospital, you only have to take blood from anyone that happens to be there in the waiting room and I bet you find an anxiety disorder... bet that was hard to test out?

    Just my thoughts...
  • by earache ( 110979 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:28PM (#13759604) Homepage
    Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

    I wish this test had been around when I blew my top a few times and ended up in the emergency room. Each visit resulted in a different hypothesis on what was wrong with me, from dehydration to renault's syndrome.

    The shit is scary enough when you have no idea what is wrong with you. For most anxiety sufferers, the first half dozen of earthquake sized panic attacks are almost always assumed to be physical problems. I believe I had brain cancer, lung cancer, intestinal cancer, heart problems, etc. Had I been shown a test result that read anxiety, I would have saved a lot of additional anxiety worrying about whether or not my ticker was going to go at any given moment.

    Good news.

    • by sapped ( 208174 ) <> on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:47PM (#13759735)
      Each visit resulted in a different hypothesis on what was wrong with me, from dehydration to renault's syndrome.

      Tsk. Lucky you. I was recently diagnosed with Porsche syndrome. Unlike Renault, the Porsche syndrome leads to increased bloodflow which can only be countered with huges doses of adrenaline to even things out.

      However, I still consider myself to be relatively lucky. A friend was diagnosed with Trabant syndrome. Now that is cause for anxiety...
  • There has been, for a long time, a barrier, a kind of mental wall, even in well-informed people, about the notion that some psychological manifestations are actually neurological, that is, somatic in nature. Many thought that anti-depressants exist, but think they are just used by people that could just as well be treated a la Dr. Phil (I have nothing against Dr. Phil, on the contrary, love him). Tom Cruise is a sad case in point.

    Well, if this tests becomes widespread, the notion that anxiety and depression
  • 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.

  • Anxiety disorders are typically "ruled in" after doing all sorts of tests first to look for other serious medical issues that may cause similar symptoms. Having an MRI's and seeing a neurologist, visiting an E.N.T., and visiting a cardiologist can often be the path taken before a Dr. rules in an anxiety disorder (unless of course it's totally obvious, which it isn't a lot of the time).
  • The Value Here is... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dslauson ( 914147 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @05:33PM (#13759642) Journal
    Many people (like Tom Cruise) consider psychology to be a pseudoscience. However, if we can come up with definitive tests with concrete results in order to diagnose patients with mental illnesses, it makes psychology that much more closely resemble the rest of the world of medicine. This will (hopefully) make people realize that there is a real science behind it.

    I know that if my son was diagnosed with ADD, I would feel much more comfortable having him treated with ritalin or whatever if the doctor had a blood test (or something more concrete than "He's all fidgety in class") to back it up.
    • This test basically looks for markers of stress, and does not establish a gene polymorphism or biological cause behind anxiety and depression, although I believe some have already been identified and there's likely much more beyond our current understanding.

      ADD tends to be characterized biologically by depressed activity in the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes of the brain, I do not believe there are any blood markers you can look for. It is possible to use neural imaging to established the depressed

  • I was going to get tested for ADD, but that would take so long, not to mention I'd have to look up the place to get the test done, then have to go there, wait for them to administer the test, and then wait for the results.

    I just don't have the attention span for that kind of commitment. Anyways, time to go find something else to post about...

    I know I've stolen this from numerous comedians ...

  • Did they walk around with vials of blood to see what would happen? I could just imagine someone walking near a hospital and the blood disappearing under a nearby rock, or getting all bubbly if a [PC|hot chick|fast car] was nearby.

  • This really isn't surprising, IMO. It's already possible (and incredibly simple) to test for sugar level trends (ie not just the current blood sugar level), stress levels (long term), heavy metal levels, parasites, and any number of other things through very simple wet slide and dry smear microscope tests. I'm guessing they just found the pattern that indicates anxiety.
  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Monday October 10, 2005 @07:53PM (#13760492) Homepage Journal
    It's from Hebrew University.

    Blood test: compare DNA sample to that of a Jewish mother.
    If there's a relationship, then the testee has an anxiety disorder.

    Disclaimer: I'm Jewish.

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