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Treating Your Mental Health Through Your Genes

A Brief Introduction


Joseph Hoffswell Ph.D.

My name is Dr. Joe Hoffswell, and I am a person who has been diagnosed with ADHD, Complex PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Bipolar 1 disorder. These diagnoses were finally solidified for me in October of this year when I had Bipolar 1 disorder added to my mental health diagnoses. Having these disabilities has had a profound impact on my life and my relationships with other people. I am also a high-achieving individual as I pursued my Ph.D. in Communication with a focus on digital and interactive media. I achieved this without having any of my mental health diagnoses. It was not until October of 2022 that I begin getting a complete picture of my various mental illnesses and how they have affected my life. Today I will share a little about my recent experience with having genetic testing done to see how the various psychiatric drugs available to treat my illnesses.


Find another story about managing ADHD and Bipolar disorder here: https://www.structureinnovations.com/post/my-journey-while-balancing-bipolar-disorder-and-adhd


Genetic Testing To See How Psychiatric Drugs Interact With My Body.


Illustration of GeneSight genetic testing kit with DNA analysis for personalized medication management

Recently I had the opportunity through Medicare to have genetic testing done on me to see what kind of drugs will work well with my own genetics. This was an enlightening experience as it revealed a great deal of how psychiatric medications can help in mental health treatment, as long as they are positively interacting with your genetics.


An artistic representation of a DNA double helix intertwined with various psychiatric medication pills and capsules.

The Journey To Learning I had Bipolar 1 and The Complications I Experienced Due To Medications.


For the past year, I did not have a diagnosis of Bipolar 1 and was focused mainly on treating my ADHD, anxiety, bouts of depression, and complex PTSD. One of the drugs I was on to treat my symptoms was Fluvoxamine better known as Luvox. Luvox is a stimulant, and little did I know, it was incompatible with my genetic make-up. This led me to be in and out of manic episodes starting in October 2022 and continuing until October of this year when I finally received my diagnosis of Bipolar 1 disorder.


If you aren’t aware Bipolar 1 disorder means I am more likely to become manic and impulsive when it gets out of control. For some people, Luvox is a solution to this problem and allows them to manage their BP1 much easier. This was not the case for me. It made my symptoms worse and made me act unlike myself for nearly an entire year.

makeup

 An infographic showing the concept of medication compatibility with one's genetic makeup.

I had to drop my former psychiatrist because she would not listen to me and my needs as a patient. She told me, “You need to let the medicine work.” And although I did not feel like myself, I unfortunately listened to her. She then prescribed me Seroquel to help with my sleep which sent me into such a heightened state of mania that it distressed everyone who knew me. After this incident, I had to drop my psychiatrist because she was not interested in providing me with the best care possible. My life was completely out of balance and I was overwhelmed by my mental illnesses.


Read about balancing your life and expectations on our other blog here:


New Psychiatrist, New Treatment Plan.


During my first appointment with my new psychiatrist, he suggested I do a genetic test to determine which medications will work best for me. This test was conducted by the company GeneSight and this post is not sponsored by them; I am just sharing my personal experience. They are a very easy to work with company and give very clear instructions for their genetic testing. Within 2 days of my new psychiatrist ordering the test, it arrived at my door. To test your genetics, all they require are two swabs of the inside of your cheek. They give you all the supplies and a prepaid envelope to ship your samples directly to them. I am currently on Medicare, so my test was completely covered by that. If you are someone who utilizes medicinal intervention to help treat your mental health issues, I would highly recommend getting this test done. I received the results of my test in less than two weeks total. The results were eye opening.


Find GeneSight here:

GeneSight Website

GeneSight color codes your results with green indicating medications you can take without any issue, yellow indicating they may not be as effective and to exercise caution, and red indicating that the medication could have negative interactions with you based on your genetic make-up. My results showed immediately that Luvox/Fluvoxamine were in the red. This made me immediately grateful to my new psychiatrist and that my new medication, Vraylar, was in my green zone based on my genetics. This test also told me that I have a gene mutation for processing folic acid in my body.


An infographic showing the concept of medication compatibility with one's genetic makeup.

Folic Acid Helps with Mood?


If you weren’t aware, metabolized folic acid is a natural mood stabilizer and can help us to regulate our emotions. If you don’t metabolize it properly like me, then it can lead to more dramatic mood swings. This was very useful information to learn and helped me with my decision to start taking a metabolized folic acid supplement. If you are interested in the supplement, it is called L-Methyl-Folate. I have noticed a marked difference in my ability to self-regulate my emotions since adding this supplement to my treatment regimen.


Affiliate Amazon Link: L-Methyl Folate


Smoking Matters


Aside from all the information it revealed about me, GeneSight also splits your results into smoking and non-smoking. If you smoke cigarettes or marijuana, it can shift your results. For me in particular, smoking actually makes most psychiatric medications work better. This was very surprising to me because I grew up during the era when the TRUTH campaign actively argued against smoking. Now of course, I’m not going to start smoking because of these results, but it was interesting to learn that nicotine and THC both have net positive effects on how my body reacts to medication.


Advocate For Yourself Always


If you are struggling with figuring out the right medications to treat your mental illness, I would highly recommend this test. I now have a full knowledge of how medications interact with my system and if they are compatible with me. I am happy to say I have found a regimen of medications that make my mental illness manageable. I am no longer easily entering states of mania. I am no longer having trouble falling asleep. I am no longer receiving improper care like I did for the past year. I have a great treatment team that includes my primary care doctor, my psychiatrist, and I see a trauma informed therapist once a week.


A creative image showing a person in a harmonious setting, balancing different aspects of life like work, personal health, and relationships.

I share this story because it is very important for you to advocate for yourself if you are a person with mental illness like me. If I had known that I could get this genetic test done a year ago, I would have. If I had this test done a year ago, then 2023 would have been a lot better for me in my opinion. I would not have repeatedly been stuck in circular thought patterns. I would not have been constantly contemplating suicide. I would not have caused damage to my personal and professional relationships. I am doing better now, but it is a long road ahead to repair the damage that was done while I was in and out of bouts of mania during most of 2023.



If you’re struggling, I would fully recommend taking this test to find out your results. It was very eye-opening for me and gave me a newfound perspective on my mental health treatment.


Read testimonials of how Structured Innovations has helped others advocate for themselves: Testimonials


Structured Innovations provides services that help you manage advocating for yourself in all walks of life and in all areas of your life. I would recommend regularly visiting Structure Innovations and signing up for the newsletter so you can read more content like this. It can be hard to advocate for yourself, so it is always better to have someone in your corner who understands the issues that you are facing.


Please also find me on LinkedIn and feel free to send me a connection request at: Joseph Hoffswell, Ph.D.


I’m also on Instagram as @DrHoffswell.


Thanks for sharing space with me and reading about my experience with genetic testing for medications.



Disclaimer from Structure Innovations:


Please note that Structure Innovations is not comprised of medical experts or healthcare professionals. The content shared on our platform, including this blog post, represents the personal experiences and viewpoints of our guest writers and contributors, not medical advice. In this post, Dr. Joe Hoffswell shares his personal journey with mental health and the role of genetic testing in his treatment.


While we are dedicated to providing a space for sharing diverse experiences and insights related to mental wellness and health, we strongly advocate for consulting with medical professionals for diagnosis, treatment, and advice. Each individual's experience with mental health is unique, and it is crucial to partner with healthcare professionals who can provide personalized care and guidance.


We extend our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Hoffswell for generously sharing his experience and insights with our audience. His story reflects his personal journey and decisions, and we hope it serves as a source of information and inspiration to our readers. However, it should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site.

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