Receiving a correct diagnosis of mental illness  is crucial for proper treatment. Unfortunately, because often symptoms overlap this is not always possible. Often, people with mental illness experience a trial-and-error type of process, with doctors and patients working to figure out complex symptoms and match various treatment approaches to those symptoms. It can sometimes take years for a correct diagnosis to be made and the best treatment begun.

Researchers are trying to remedy this, and in the case of bipolar disorder and disorders where psychosis is present,  such as schizophrenia, they may have discovered a breakthrough that might lead to earlier identification and treatment. Scientists with iPSYCH, a psychiatric research project in Denmark, studied nearly 17,000 people with depression who had been treated in a psychiatric hospital. They discovered common genetic risk factors of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They studied people who had been diagnosed with depression because major depression often precedes other illnesses like bipolar and psychotic disorders. While the findings are preliminary and the genetic link was small, the results are encouraging. They point to a possible genetic link between these mental illnesses that, if future studies confirm, can be used to identify someone’s risk of developing bipolar disorder or a psychotic disorder. This could lead to better detection and earlier treatment.