When the Detroit Tigers placed pitcher Dontrelle Willis on the disabled list last Sunday (3/29/2009) with the diagnosis of "anxiety disorder" it was very interesting to me for two reasons:
First, because my nephew Casey Fien was trying to make the Tigers as a pitcher and we had just recently returned from a trip to spring training to follow the Tigers and watch Casey pitch (Casey is now with the Minnesota Twins organization), and we have started following the Tigers very closely; and
Secondly, because of the reports that although Willis had not reported any symptoms of an anxiety disorder, he was diagnosed solely through the results of a blood test, according to news reports.
I must confess that I had never heard of a blood test for anxiety disorder, so I began looking around the internet for information to see if this was true, or if the Tigers were just trying to find a reason to put Willis on the DL so that they wouldn't have to pay all of the $11 million owed him for this season.
Here is what I discovered, and it may be helpful to you if you or your child with ADHD also has symptoms of anxiety, panic, rigid thinking, or OCD...
While WebMD doesn't know about any blood tests for anxiety disorder, they write: "Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose mental illness, the doctor may use various tests to make sure something else isn't causing the symptoms. If no other illness is found, you may be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist, mental health professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses."
Our local family practice doctor doesn't know anything about a blood test for anxiety disorders either.
However, over three years ago (January, 2006) a research team from Hebrew University in Israel announced the development of a blood test for anxiety disorders. The blood test looks for abnormally high levels of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine (ACh) by measuring the levels of related enzymes. According to the website, "(the) team found more than a 90% correlation between people who were diagnosed with higher than usual anxiety by a psychologist and people with abnormal AChE, BChE and PON levels."
The entire 2006 article is here: http://www.isracast.com/article.aspx?ID=45 and it is worth the read. There is also a 2005 report on the research here: http://blogs.zdnet.com/emergingtech/?p=47
Hebrew University, through Yissum Research Development Company, which is the technology development company of the University, then applied for a patent on the blood test in April of 2006. They were just awarded the patent on February 24, 2009, which would mean that the test would be commercially available soon if not already.
The patent award is here: http://www.pharmcast.com/Patents200/Yr2009/Feb2009/022409/7494783_Anxiet... and it gives very detailed information about the test. How do you buy stock in this?
As of March, 2007, the University of Iowa was also developing a blood test for anxiety disorders based on the genetic profiles of individuals that they hoped would be commercially produced. Their study was publishes in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, and according to reports, "The team compared gene expression in lymphoblasts (immature white blood cells) culled from 16 participants with panic disorder and 17 participants without the disorder. The study found many genes were more expressed in people with panic disorder than in people without the condition. Similarly, the study found many genes were less expressed in people with panic disorder."
The entire 2007 article is here: http://psychcentral.com/news/2007/03/06/blood-test-for-panic-disorder/66...
Other blood tests focus on thyroid functioning and adrenal levels, both of which, if not functioning correctly, can cause anxiety related symptoms.
It will be interesting to see what 2009 will bring in the development of improved technologies to diagnose and treat anxiety disorders, as it will be interesting to follow the career of Dontrelle Willis. We wish him well.