Improving Your Mental Health With Genetic Insights

With the spotlight on wellness these days, it’s normal to want to use every possible tool to keep yourself and your family healthy.

Tools like genetic testing have become popular beyond exploring your ancestry for what they reveal about inherited traits related to physical health. Knowing your genetic predispositions can motivate you to get crucial health screenings or make lifestyle improvements.

What if you could do the same for your mental health?

Today, people are coping with unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety. Many are seeking new ways to improve their mental wellness, and to support that of their children and family.

Thanks to multiple scientific sources, including genome-wide association studies (GWAS), researchers have made meaningful connections between certain genetic variants and mental health. This knowledge has created a groundbreaking new approach to mental wellness.

“While your environment and circumstances affect your mental well-being, we now know that genetics also plays a key part in your mental wellness. Variants in your DNA can predispose you towards certain traits and behavioral tendencies,” said Dr. David Krause, Chief Medical Officer at Genomind. “Learning about your genetic makeup can help you make more informed decisions regarding your mental wellness, and be more proactive in taking care of yourself and your family.”

Using data largely derived from multiple GWAS, a new DNA test from Genomind helps you understand yourself more completely — encouraging you to take new steps to improve your well-being. Genomind’s mental health experts use your DNA to develop a personalized Mental Health Map, which dives into the 7 Core Genetic Mental Health Capabilities:

1. Stress and anxiety: Responses to stress and anxiety, and adaptability.

2. Mood: Temperament, outlook, emotional vulnerability and mood stability.

3. Focus and memory: Working memory, long-term memory, focus and attention.

4. Substance use and habits: Habit-forming potential and the effects of alcohol, nicotine and marijuana.

5. Sleep: Sleep cycle, ease of falling asleep, sleeping behavior and daytime energy levels.

6. Social behavior: Self-perception, social perception and need for social connection.

7. Eating behavior: Eating patterns, triggers, food selectivity and preferences.

Genomind® Mental Health Map™ connects your DNA to behavioral traits, and offers helpful insights and actions to improve your wellness based on your unique genetic makeup. Patient advocacy groups like Mental Health America (MHA), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) provide advice and tools. In addition, Genomind offers consultations with its advisors to help you interpret your results and make wellness action plans.

Using DNA to support your mental health

Example 1: Focus

Your ability to focus is influenced by brain cell signaling, a mechanism that transmits information from one brain cell to the next. Certain variants of brain cell signaling genes (CACNA1C and ANK3) can lead to excessive or altered activity of this mechanism, which may result in a predisposition toward inattentiveness and distractibility. If you (or your child) have this predisposition, you can act to stabilize brain cell signaling, improving your brain health and performance.

Recommendations include increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help stabilize brain cell signaling and are beneficial for brain health and focus. You can boost your omega-3 fatty acid intake through your diet and/or supplements. There are also techniques provided by CHADD to help overcome distractions.

Example 2: Social Behavior

Your comfort in social situations and ability to connect with others is impacted by a hormone called oxytocin. This powerful hormone helps us feel empathy and plays a key role in bonding with others. The brain chemical balance of oxytocin can be impacted by a genetic variant of the OXTR gene, potentially decreasing oxytocin activity which can lead to difficulty with social situations and connections. If you (or your child) have this variant, there are several things you can do to manage these tendencies.

Recommendations include actions that increase the level of oxytocin in your brain, like practicing gratitude and increasing physical touch. Ways to deal with inhibitions and forge new relationships, exercises in building empathy in adults, and teaching empathy in children are also provided.

“While your genes don’t define you,” observed Dr. Krause, “they can give you a window into traits that may shape your behavior. Understanding your genetic makeup gives you a positive way to support your mental health as you navigate the challenges of life.”

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