You do all you can to take care of your health. You go to the doctor for your checkups, eat nutritious meals and exercise regularly. But are you taking care of your mental health? That’s just as important as your physical well-being when it comes to living a life of optimal wellness. May is Mental Health Month, and this year there is a special focus on how any definition of fitness should include the mind as well as the body.
Taking Care of Mental Health
Taking care of your mental health can take many forms. It could be something simple, such as taking 10 minutes to meditate or practice breathing exercises every day to reduce stress; stress can take a toll mentally as well physically. It could also be ensuring that you get an extra hour of sleep every night so you don’t have drastic mood swings or lack of focus the next day. Or it could be keeping a gratitude journal to uplift your mood and bring a feeling of joy to your life.
For many other people, taking care of their mental health can mean something more. In America, 43.8 million adults experience a mental health disorder during any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Whether it is depression, anxiety or another type of disorder, mental health is an issue that affects many people from all walks of life. And that effect is profound—mental illness costs billions in lost wages, is a contributing factor in a majority of suicides in America and is the main cause of disability around the world, according to NAMI. Unfortunately, NAMI data also states that almost 60 percent of adults who have a mental illness didn’t get any treatment for it during the previous year, which is a figure that Mental Health Month is meant to change.
Making a Mental Health Change
When it comes to making significant mental health change, it can help to speak with your physician, find a licensed therapist or seek out a support group for your particular mental health issue. Speaking freely about what you are experiencing and knowing you are not alone can help you in coping with mental health issues. In addition to creating a meaningful connection about your mental health, a psychiatric medication may be prescribed as part of an overall treatment plan.
Finding the right prescription—which medication to use, and at what dosage—can be a difficult process. Psychiatric medications have different effects on different people, and what works for one person may not work for you. There may also be negative side effects that can come with taking certain medications, but you won’t know that until you have already started taking the medication. All of this means finding the right psychiatric medication can involve a lot of guesswork. But it doesn’t have to be a trial-and-error scenario anymore, thanks to DNA testing for mental health.
DNA Testing for Mental Health
A home DNA test, such as our Mental Health DNA Insight®, can help cut out the guesswork and wasted time. Instead, you can get information that can help you and your physician determine which medication is optimal for you, according to your genes. Our at-home DNA test analyzes your body’s potential response to more than 50 psychiatric medications. These include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, ADHD medications, antipsychotics and benzodiazepines, among other medications. This kind of DNA-based testing, also called pharmacogenomic testing, uses genetics as the basis for a medication management plan. That’s because your genes determine the production of the enzymes that metabolize medication in your body. When it comes to figuring out the proper medication, that’s an important piece of the puzzle.
With our home DNA test, you send in a sample of your saliva to our state-of-the-art laboratory, where we will analyze it and send back a report quickly, usually in two to three weeks. The results are easy to read and tell you which medications are preferred for use and which ones will cause negative side effects, based on your genetic makeup. The results can also help you understand which medications you can take as directed and which ones may have limitations that could reduce their effectiveness. With this actionable information, you and your physician can make more knowledgeable choices about a medication management plan.
Once you have a detailed outline for your psychiatric medication plan, based specifically on your genetics, it can help make your life easier. Not only will you have more confidence in the choice of medication you and your physician have made, but getting the prescription and dosage correct quickly and early in treatment can help cut down on unnecessary trips to the pharmacy and doctor visits.
If your Mental Health Month includes seeking out treatment for a disorder, or if you and your health care provider are trying to determine if there is a better medication for your needs, explore the possibilities of personalized, genetic-based medicine and pursue DNA testing for mental health. You will get the insight you need to make accurate, informed decisions about your medications. And that may not only enhance your overall wellness, but can also bring you the peace of mind that comes when you know your medication fits you and your genetic needs.