By Lisa Marshall

Principal investigator
Andrew Grotzinger

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Collaboration + support
Psychiatric Genetics Consortium; iPSYCH; UK Biobank; 23 and Me; University of Texas at Austin

Face and DNA illustrationMore than half of people diagnosed with one psychiatric disorder will be diagnosed with a second or third. About one third have four or more.

A sweeping new genetic analysis helps explain why: Subsets of disorders share many underlying genes.

The researchers analyzed data from hundreds of thousands of people who submitted genetic material to large-scale datasets. When they looked at genes associated with 11 disorders, clear patterns emerged:

About 70% of the genetic signal associated with schizophrenia is also associated with bipolar disorder; there is large genetic overlap between anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder; and anorexia nervosa and obsessive-compulsive disorder share similar underlying genes.

The finding could open the door to treatments that address multiple psychiatric disorders and help reshape the way diagnoses are given.