Brittany Collins Kaufman | December 13, 2017
Mental illnesses, such as major depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, affect nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Many aspects of these illnesses remain something of a mystery, despite the progress made in understanding them by researchers studying these disorders in the last half century.
Even so, clinicians and researchers, together with patients and their families, have made significant strides identifying and treating mental illnesses. Two major diagnostic manuals — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), used primarily in the U.S., and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), used internationally — provide clinicians, researchers and patients a structured approach to diagnosing mental health. Further, the federal National Institute of Mental Health also uses a new framework for researching mental illness, called the Research Domain Criteria, or R-DoC.
Although these manuals are helpful and even necessary for identifying and treating mental illnesses, Lee Anna Clark, William J. and Dorothy K. O’Neill Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, along with a small team of other experts, wants researchers and clinicians to revisit how these illnesses are approached. In a new paper published in the invitation-only journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Clark and her team present the challenges in using these manuals from a scientific perspective and offer some recommendations for re-conceptualizing the mental disorders they describe.
“The phenomenon of mental illness or psychopathology is much more complex, much more multi-determined, much less categorical than any of us ever thought going into it and than the public realizes,” Clark said.