Previously, when diagnosing depression, doctors have had to rely on the patients accurate reporting of their symptoms, and their own ability to interpret those symptoms. This is particularly challenging in teenagers, whose emotions are typically very up and down at this time in their lives.
Now, scientists at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have developed the first blood test to diagnose depression and anxiety disorders. It measures a set of genetic markers which have been previously developed to diagnose depression in teenagers. The blood test can also distinguish between the different types of depression. For example it can tell the difference between a patient with major depression and a patient with depression combined with an anxiety disorder.
The study involved 28 adolescent participants between the ages of 15 and 19 – 14 of who those had major depression (they had not been clinically treated) and 14 were healthy individuals. Each of the participants were tested for 26 genetic blood markers which had been identified in previous research. The scientists found that 18 of the 26 markers could identify those participants who had major depression and those who had both depression and an anxiety disorder.