Saliva Sleuths: spotting mental illness in your spit

It is believed that one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Patients sometimes spend years trying to find the right drug cocktail to keep their symptoms at bay, all the while suffering serious side effects.

But now, a unique test that examines a patient’s saliva could change the way doctors treat mental disorders.

Virginia von Rhine was diagnosed with depression; she now uses art like a form of meditation.

"The chatter, the duh duh there 24/7, the chatter goes away because I'm so focused,” Virginia says art is the only thing that has brought her peace.

Virginia has suffered with Major Depressive Disorder and anxiety since the second grade and has spent what seems like forever trying to find what she calls, “the happy pill.”

Clinical Depression affects nearly 15 million Americans, with two-thirds of patients failing to adequately respond to a first line of anti-depressants, and 30 to 40 percent of patients still trying find relief after three more interventions.

According to Laura Leahy, a family psychiatric nurse practitioner, it’s a disorder that impacts a huge number of individuals in the U.S.

Leahy says a new genetic test could help, "I refer to it as a spit test for my patients."

The Genecept Assay test uses a patient’s saliva to look for genetic biomarkers associated with depression. It helps doctors predict which anti-depressants are most likely to work.

"And say, yes you are an ultra-rapid metabolizer and that is why you are more likely to have significant negative side effects, not respond to such and such medication,” Leahy added.

For Virginia, the test helped doctors put her on a new course of treatment.

"I didn't have it for all those years, but I have it now,” she said.

Much like Virginia’s new tattoo, she said she feels like a phoenix rising from the ashes, "I look at it and I, I know, you know, that I'm a new creature."

The test can be used for patients with a range of difficult to treat psychiatric conditions including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, O.C.D, and A.D.H.D.

Trials are currently underway for the spit test, and enrollment is open. Anyone intersted can contact Laura G. Leahy at the following address:

Laura G Leahy, MSN, PMH-CNS/FNP
APNSolutions, LLC
123 Egg Harbor Road, Suite 703 Tower Commons
Sewell, NJ. 08080

Research Summary:

BACKGROUND: A mental illness or mental disorder is a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life. (SOURCE:

WHAT CAUSES MENTAL ILLNESS?: There are many factors, a person's genes or family history may play a role. Life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, may also matter. Biological factors can also be part of the cause. A traumatic brain injury can lead to a mental disorder. A mother's exposure to viruses or toxic chemicals while pregnant may play a part. Other factors may increase a person's risk, such as use of illegal drugs or having a serious medical condition like cancer. (SOURCE:

THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Mental illnesses are very common. In fact, they are more common than cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 25% of American adults (those ages 18 and older) and about 13% of American children (those ages 8 to 15) are diagnosed with a mental disorder during a given year. (SOURCE:

TREATMENT: A mental illness, like many chronic illnesses, requires ongoing treatment. Many mental conditions can be effectively treated with one or a combination of the following therapies:

* Medication
* Psychotherapy
* Group therapy
* Day treatment or partial hospital treatment
* Specific therapies, such as cognitive-behavior therapy and behavior modification

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