The role of a lab in Psychiatry?
Of all the medical specialities, psychiatry must the last one to not have been revolutionised by laboratory tests, scans and other technological wonders. Even for conditions that have some clear pathology such as Alzheimer’s, diagnostic tests remain subjective and based on detailed history and observations.
Technology must never replace human time and communication, especially in the field of mental health, but it is still surprising that a final frontier for technology still exists today! The bible of psychiatry – the DSM – lists symptoms associated with each condition, but still can be open to interpretation with many overlapping symptoms. The rise of patients suffering and the increasing recognition of these illnesses have made psychiatry quite popular recently. For conditions that have such emotional and behavioural manifestations, a fully history and consultation is essential. The introduction of biological tests based on biomarkers for the conditions could help guide psychiatrists, and the research needed to create them could shed light on potential treatment options.
There would be benefits for patients, through the care they would receive from general clinicians. Since the area is so complex, it is hard for clinicians who have little experience in the area, such as GPs, to make a diagnosis. Having some guidance from biomarkers and biological tests could prove valuable. That time is likely to be a long way off however, since most psychiatric diseases have no clear pathology as yet
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