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Psychiatric Genetics: A Survey of Psychiatrists' Knowledge, Opinions, and Practice Patterns

J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66(7):821-830

Objective: Knowledge about the genetic basis of psychiatric illness is growing rapidly, and psychiatrists may be called upon to incorporate this information into clinical practice. The goal of this study was to assess psychiatrists' familiarity with and attitudes toward genetic information.

Method: We surveyed 844 participants, the majority of whom were psychiatrists, attending a continuing medical education course in the fall of 2002 and measured knowledge, opinions, and current practice patterns in regard to psychiatric genetics.

Results: Responses were received from 352 psychiatrists (54% of those surveyed). Most psychiatrists correctly answered fewer than half of survey items assessing general and psychiatric genetic knowledge. While 83% considered it their role to discuss genetic information with patients and families, fewer than 25% felt prepared or competent to do so. In response to hypothetical questions regarding genetic testing, a substantial proportion of psychiatrists indicated willingness to use such tests for diagnostic clarification, as well as presymptomatic and even prenatal risk prediction. The majority of respondents expressed interest in further genetics education.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that psychiatrists view genetic information as clinically relevant, but have limitations in knowledge that may impact the incorporation of psychiatric genetics into clinical practice.