I Uploaded My DNA to the Internet and Found Out I Don’t Have Depression After All

Hello from Arizona, my blog friends! Yes it’s hot, yes Buddy is enjoying having a backyard. What Buddy is enjoying more though is laying on soooo many new floors.

The drive down was long and a lot of desert nothing. However, our route did feel the need to take us in a big loop around downtown Las Vegas, for some reason.

It’s amazing to be out of Utah. I needed the change so much, for my own mental health.

All smiles because it’s warm, we’re done living in AirBnbs, we have a backyard, and we no longer live beneath a wanted felon.

Speaking of mental health, you’re probably wondering about the title of this post. I’ve said for a while that I wanted to talk about the DTC Genetic Testing I did a few years ago. The only thing that’s held me back from doing that is, well, it was an Ancestry test, and the results were quite dull.

England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 60%

Ireland & Scotland 25%

Germanic Europe 14%

Sweden 1%

So, I’m white. Ok. We’ve covered that. Instead of having a blog post detailing how the science supports what you can already tell by looking at me, I thought I’d upload my DNA to some shoddy science sites to explore rogue DNA analysis with y’all. If you don’t know, once you have DTC Genetic Testing like 23 & Me or Ancestry, you can request a zip file of your DNA (just the SNPs they looked at), and upload it to other sites to get further analysis.

Unfortunately, most shoddy science DNA sites cost mega $$$$ so, I only have GenomeLink results to share with y’all. But even so, there’s a ton to unpack. 😅I had a ton of fun looking at these results, so I appreciate Genome Link for providing them. Because I’m college-educated in genetics though, I know they’re only for fun. But there’s definitely an ethical debate to be had about whether a website should be dishing out variant analysis about health and personality traits, without providing any genetic counseling regarding the significance or lack thereof of said variants. We’ll talk about that too.

For now, here’s a few traits that GenomeLink assigned me, and what I think about them.

I’ll preface by saying that most of my results put me at the “intermediate / typical” level of a trait, for example, I have an average tendency to use caffeine. We’re only going to talk about a few traits that came back “atypical” for me, and discuss whether I agree with the analysis.

Food and Nutrition

Vitamin A and D Levels in Blood Serum (Higher than average)– Without a blood test, there’s no way for me to say whether or not I actually have higher levels of these vitamins in my blood. However, I did find it interesting that these vitamins protect the eyes, skin, and teeth, all of which are body parts that I’ve not treated that well and yet they’re still holding up nicely. Lol. Twenty-five years of staring at screens, a strong family history of nearsightedness, and yet I haven’t needed any sort of vision help yet. Maybe extra vitamins in my serum is why.

No photo description available.
Hang in there, peepers

Sensitivity to Pain from Spicy Foods (Higher)– IDK, this one is straight up not true lol. I’m a spicy bean and I order my CupBop at an 8 HOT on the 10 HOT scale. Ya. Genes be lyin’.

Personality (oh lawdy we gettin’ into dicey territory 😂)

Impulsivity (High)– Lol y’all know this is correct. I think it’s particularly interesting that it mentions I have a high chance of doing rebellious acts as a teenager. And like, this is definitely influenced by my Mormon upbringing, but if we want to talk about teen rebellion, wearing this mid-thigh length dress is about as crazy as it got.

No photo description available.
Me circa 2010

However, I would agree that I don’t tend to muddle around with decisions, and sometimes I make decisions quickly that I should have muddled with a while. (Exhibit A, I now live in Phoenix, AZ for only the vaguest of reasons). I would say the DNA definitely got this one right.

Tendency for Depression (low)– Here we are, the namesake of this blog post. My friends, it turns out, I don’t have depression! My DNA says so!!!

Just kidding, I’ve just spoken with my psychiatrist and he says I still do. 🙄

In all seriousness, I think this analysis was the most surprising and I do think Genome Link throwing out information like this has the potential to be harmful.

I have been diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder with Secondary Depression, meaning that my depressive symptoms are the result of anxiety about things, rather than Major Depressive Disorder where people have long stretches of depression without clear triggers. Before I got diagnosed, I would often wonder if I’m making up how I’m feeling or just being too sensitive. Getting a diagnosis didn’t make the feelings go away, but at least now I’m validated in my struggle to feel normal.

Access to psych care and counseling though, is a privilege. And even I, as a privileged person, wouldn’t have been able to afford it except for the fact that I was working in healthcare with excellent benefits. Many people with far worse mental health than me go their whole lives undiagnosed.

Imagine if you’re struggling with undiagnosed major depression, then someone gifts you a home DNA test and it comes back “low tendency for depression”. Your struggles feel invalidated. It’s like your DNA jumping out and telling you “just get over it; you don’t have it that bad!” And we know how hurtful that kind of talk comes off to someone who’s depressed.

Am I getting on a genetics / mental health soapbox? Yes. But this depression genetics data was definitely one of the most interesting “findings” of my DNA upload, and the ethics of giving out this information definitely need to be considered. Especially because, on further investigation of my depression DNA, it turns out that I actually only have one (1) SNP that is in one (1) paper linking it to lower risk of depression.

I’m not immune to depression. I don’t have to be extra super weak to struggle with depression, since my DNA is protecting me. Nah. I have a single SNP, and a whole lifetime of experience and environment that affects my mental health. If I didn’t have the beginning variant interpreting skills that I do, I definitely would need someone to explain this information to me, lest I believe that I’ve just been undiagnosed with depression.

In short, this info probably shouldn’t be floating around without genetic counselors; thanks for coming to my TED Talk blog post.

I think we’ll leave it there for now and have a part 2 next week talking about more traits! What will my DNA have to say about how volumpious I could be? 🤔

There’s way too much good DNA info to unpack and too little time to do it! Happy official summer and thanks for being a faithful blog reader! See you next week!

-Laura Cooper-Hastings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s