Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Simple Test

I was very interested last week to read this article about the discovery of a biomarker for depression. The discovery means that fairly soon, it may be possible to diagnose depression with a simple blood test, and also to determine if a given antidepressant was working. Many antidepressants take weeks to make people feel better, but the blood test would let doctors know long before that if the medicine was going to make the patient feel better.

As a depression patient, I'm delighted by this news. It will make diagnosis and treatment simpler and faster, and it should also quiet the nay-sayers who insist that depression is a character flaw rather than a physical illness. If this test had been available when I was first given a depression diagnosis, I wouldn't have had to listen to a dear friend say briskly, "You're not depressed. You're just lazy."

But then I thought further. I believe my current meds are working, which means that if I took the test today, the results would presumably be normal. I'd have to go off meds to find out if I really have depression. And what if those results were normal then, too? What if Science-With-a-Capital-S informed me that I don't actually have a physical illness, that I really am just lazy, malingering, or suffering from wrongthink?

Many people will rejoice at the advent of this test, but I wonder if anyone else is a little nervous about it.


  1. Not a whole lot to add on point... Depression is such a wide-ranging diagnosis, with so many variables I fail to see how any single bio-marker could be effective in even a majority of cases...

    The main reason I stopped by was to wish you and yours a nice Easter!


  2. If the test was to indicate a genetic marker, it would not be "normal" even if one were on antidepressant medication because that only alleviates the results of the genetic anomaly, not the anomaly itself! And I do not think you are lazy. I *am* lazy and I would know.

  3. I'm curious. What would you do if the test shows that you don't have the marker for depression?

    It does raise the big question of what is the range of normal for our emotional & psychological states. And what does anti-depressive medication do for us; and what does it keep us from?

  4. A magic bullet that kills you. Now that's a mixed blessing.

    Until we know a lot more about our disease I shall remain exceedingly nervous about any single diagnostic tool that claims to fit everyone.

  5. Everyone makes an excellent point: that there is no reason to suppose there is ONLY ONE KIND of depression. I didn't even think of that when I posted. Because I am lazy.

  6. Could you please expand on the idea of "wrongthink" to me? I think I know what it means, but I'm not sure.

  7. Hi, everybody. Thanks for the comments!

    John: Happy Easter to you, too!

    Terri: It's not a genetic marker. According to the article, would be a blood test for a certain kind of protein that's found in different quantities in brains that are working efficiently versus depressed ones.

    Barbara: Well, I'd go off meds, for one thing. Other than that, probably not too much change -- but it would make me do a lot of thinking!

    Emmy: I'm using "wrongthink" here in the sense of, "Now, if you just practiced positive thinking and got rid of that negativity, you wouldn't be depressed!"


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