New Blood Test for Anxiety: A Breakthrough in Mental Health Diagnostics
Anxiety is a common mental health disorder affecting millions of people worldwide. While there are medications and therapies available to treat anxiety, finding the right treatment can be challenging. However, researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine have developed a blood test for anxiety that could make it easier for physicians to determine a patient’s risk of developing anxiety, the severity of their current anxiety, and the best therapy to treat their anxiety.
The researchers used RNA biomarkers in the blood to identify a patient’s current state of anxiety and matched them with medications and nutraceuticals. The study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, included three independent cohorts: discovery, validation, and testing. Participants in the study completed a blood test every 3-6 months or whenever a new psychiatric hospitalization occurred.
The blood test could also help evaluate a person’s risk of developing higher levels of anxiety in the future as well as how other factors might impact their anxiety, like hormonal changes. “There are people who have anxiety, and it is not properly diagnosed, then they have panic attacks but think they’re having a heart attack and end up in the ER with all sorts of physical symptoms,” said professor of psychiatry Alexander Niculescu, MD, PhD.
Niculescu’s past research has led to the development of blood tests for pain, depression/bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. This latest work on anxiety uses similar methods, and the test could be used in combination with the other blood tests to provide a more comprehensive view of a patient’s mental health and risk of future mental health concerns.
“This is something that could be a panel test as part of a patient’s regular wellness visits to evaluate their mental health over time and prevent any future distress,” Niculescu said. “Prevention is better in the long run, so our goal is to be able to provide a comprehensive report for patients and their physicians using simply one tube of blood.”
The blood test could be a game-changer in the field of mental health as it provides an objective way to diagnose anxiety and match patients with the most effective therapy. This test could also help prevent misdiagnosis and unnecessary suffering by identifying anxiety earlier and treating it with medication that matches the patient’s profile. As researchers continue to develop new treatments for anxiety that are more targeted to individual biomarkers, this blood test could pave the way for more personalized and effective treatment options for anxiety.