Researcher Urges Caution When Applying Genetics to Psychiatry


In a review editorial for the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, neurobiology researcher Steven Dubovsky from the University at Buffalo argues against the adoption of genetic tests in psychiatry. He calls on colleagues to resist the pressures to “appear scientific”and support industry marketing by critically examining any new genetic findings.

Open Access →

Steve Dubovsky, MD, Professor and chair UB Department of Psychiatry (Photo: UB)
Steve Dubovsky, MD, Professor and chair
UB Department of Psychiatry (Photo: UB)

“Psychiatrists, whose work frequently involves ambiguous clinical problems, and who must often consider contradictory elements of patient presentations and avoid premature closure, can have a remarkably low tolerance for ambiguity, conflict, and delayed gratification when it comes to the latest laboratory study,” Dubovsky writes.

“The hope that pharmacogenetic testing will result in unambiguous ‘personalized psychiatry’ should not lead to quick adoption of technologies that have not yet been demonstrated to reliably predict a specific course or a need for a specific medication, the choice of which remains largely empirical.”

“Yet there is tremendous pressure to translate each new report of such associations to our patients, not only from our own need to appear ‘scientific’ and from industry marketing of proprietary tests, but from the marketing of ideas by thought leaders with an intellectual attachment to the latest conceptualization of genetic causality.”



Dubovsky, S.L., 2016. The Limitations of Genetic Testing in Psychiatry.Psychotherapy and psychosomatics85(3), pp.129-135. (Full Text)


  1. Forget about drug metabolism if they ever did prove that behavior was a disease and did come up with a DNA test they use it on the unborn and offer abortions or even mandate those abortions if they manage to get rid of the second amendment like in China.

    Really stepping into NAZI stuff here but imagine that we could have a whole new master race of people with good behavioral health once all that bad DNA was weeded out. A super utopia of well behaved sheep like people.

    Report comment

  2. To: The_cat“watch the watch” you are getting sleepy and then figure out what was bugging you deep inside ? It’s called hypnosis. Part of hypnosis is repeating something over and over again. ‘You are getting sleepier, sleepier, sleepier.’ Psychiatry and big Pharma are practicing this too. ‘Mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance, mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance, mental illness…These drugs are safe and effective, These drugs are safe and effective, These drugs…” They have succeeded in hypnotizing a large percentage of the developed world. I guess Big pharama TV ads have had an effect, the way that they keep advertising how great psychiatric drugs are, by repeating the ads. Again and again. AKA hypnosis.

    Report comment

  3. My psychologist, psychiatrist, and neurologist claimed over a decade ago that their DSM disorders were, at that time, proven “lifelong, incurable, genetic mental illnesses.” So, absolutely, someone needs to educate the psychiatric practitioners of the fact that their DSM disorders are definitely NOT proven “genetic disorders,” even to this day.

    My psychiatrist even went so far as to defame my grandmother, in my medical records, so he could try to come up with some sort of “genetic” basis for the iatrogenic illness (poly pharmacy induced anticholinergic toxidrome) he created.

    Lucky for me, my mom still goes to the same doctor my grandmother did, and my grandmother’s former doctor was kind enough to give me the written medical proof that my grandmother definitely “was never psychotic.” But truly, defaming patients’ dead grandmothers is pretty pathetic behavior for a psychiatrist. “Your mama ….” The psychiatrists need to grow up and act like adults some day, IMHO.

    Report comment

  4. Ah, c’mon, Dr. Dubovsky – I was gonna go to Med. school, and become a *Research*Neuro*-*Genetic*Psychiatrist*, and make TONS of $$$$….
    Seriously, just a quick comment, on your EXCELLENT article….
    Even if I’ve only read the excerpt above, SO FAR!….
    KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, and yeah, I’ll read the whole article tomorrow….
    **So-called “mental illnesses” are exactly as “real” as presents from Santa Claus, but NOT more real….The LIES of the pseudoscience drug racket known as “biopsychiatry” has done, and continues to do, far more harm than good….

    Report comment

  5. It is reasonable to hypothesize that each of us has different genetic predispositions to act in certain ways. We are not blank slates or black boxes at birth. We all have different constitutions and different sensitivities. Some of us are more active, some are more observant.

    That said, the interactions between our genes and our environment is very, very complex, and no science is anywhere close to figuring it out. How and when a gene gets expressed is very dependent on what is going on around that person. We are very sensitive to the timing of what happens, and also to what kinds of experiences we had happened previously.

    Also, just in the last five years there are many studies that have shown that the process of translating our DNA into proteins is much more complex than anyone had expected. It is very possible that if someone does attempt to give a person a genetically targeted pill for a behavior they may somehow change that behavior, but there is a huge likelihood of wildly unanticipated side-effects, like a missing ear or a mushy brain.

    I expect we will have a better understanding of how this all works, perhaps in a hundred years.

    Report comment