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Psychiatrists’ Views of the Genetic Bases of Mental Disorders and Behavioral Traits and Their Use of Genetic Tests

Klitzman, Robert MD*; Abbate, Kristopher J. BA*; Chung, Wendy K. MD, PhD*; Marder, Karen MD*; Ottman, Ruth PhD*; Taber, Katherine Johansen PhD; Leu, Cheng-Shiun PhD; Appelbaum, Paul S. MD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: July 2014 - Volume 202 - Issue 7 - p 530–538
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000154
Original Articles

We examined how 372 psychiatrists view genetic aspects of mental disorders and behaviors and use genetic tests (GTs). Most thought that the genetic contribution was moderate/high for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer’s, intelligence, creativity, anxiety, and suicidality. In the past 6 months, 14.1% ordered GTs, 18.3% discussed prenatal testing with patients, 36.0% initiated discussions about other GTs, 41.6% had patients ask about GTs, and 5.3% excluded GT results from patient records. Many thought that GTs; were available for schizophrenia (24.3%) and major depression (19.6%). Women were more likely to report that patients asked about GTs; and were less certain about the degree of genetic contribution to several disorders. Psychiatrists perceive strong genetic bases for numerous disorders and traits, and many have discussed and ordered tests for GTs, but have relatively limited knowledge about available tests. These data suggest possible sex differences in psychiatrists’ beliefs about genetic contributions to disorders and have implications for future research, education, policy, and care.

*Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY; †American Medical Association, Chicago, IL; ‡HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, Columbia University; and §New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY.

Robert Klitzman and Kristopher J. Abbate share first authorship.

Send reprint requests to Robert Klitzman, MD, Columbia University, 1051 Riverside Dr, Unit 15, New York, NY 10032. E-mail:

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins