New approach to understand and classify mental disorders

New approach to understand and classify mental disorders

A mental health diagnosis involves several steps including medical evaluation and assessment of symptoms that is followed by recommendation of treatment plans and therapies suited to a patient’s needs. Advances in clinical science are also reflected in how mental illnesses are diagnosed and treated, however, needing a more structured approach.

While the existing diagnostic manuals for mental disorders — Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the Research Domain Criteria (R-DoC) — are helpful and necessary for identifying and treating mental illnesses, a team of experts at the University of Notre Dame and a team of other experts emphasize modifying the outlook. In the new research published online in Psychological Science in the Public Interest on Dec. 6, 2017, the team reviewed the existing diagnostic manuals and identified the challenges involved in understanding and classifying mental health disorders.

According to Lee Anna Clark, one of the scientists involved in the research, for many years, mental disorders were identified through single, straight-forward causes; however, as a person learns more and more about these disorders, one discovers that mental illnesses are caused by multiple factors including genetic and biological reasons as well as environmental and social factors, making them more complex. When it comes to diagnosing mental illnesses, people can be diagnosed with more than one illness, she says. A person suffering from an anxiety disorder may also exhibit symptoms of depression. She added that multiple disorders do not happen by chance; there is a pattern that signify existence of some underlying features that create such patterns. In addition to understanding them, getting a correct diagnosis would also have all sorts of social consequences such as determining one’s eligibility for various mental health services offered by the state.

Understanding the diagnostic manuals

A diagnostic manual for mental disorders is a reference book with a common language and standard criteria used for classification and identification. Researchers, clinicians, drug regulation companies, health insurance companies, policymakers and the legal authorities to ensure consistency in diagnosis and treatment rely on it.

While the DSM is considered the “Bible” for making mental health diagnosis in the U.S., the ICD developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) is the primary diagnostic system used outside the U.S. to track statistics. R-DoC is a research framework to find new ways of studying mental illnesses by integrating many levels of information to better understand the basic dimensions of functioning influencing human behavior.

Challenges in identifying and classifying mental health disorders

In their research, Clark and the other co-authors have identified four challenges in identifying and classifying mental disorders that include the combination of factors causing the disorders, co-morbidity or existence of multiple mental health issues, thresholds for diagnosis and how to diagnose such disorders if they are not actually distinct categories.

While the report highlights the similarities and the differences in the way the established manuals classify and theorize mental disorders, it also focuses on the central issues that these systems must confront. Highlighting the gap between identification of mental disorders and the much-needed treatment, the researchers pointed out the role of educational institutions in demystifying the myth “that mental disorders are these simple, singular diseases, like we’d like to think they are.”

Get help today

Untreated mental disorders can be life threatening, shoving a patient to the brink or actually committing suicide. They can be devastating to a person’s overall well-being. Similar to any other physical illness, effective treatment for mental illnesses involves a timely and detailed diagnosis. While every illness has its own set of treatment protocols, an early and correct diagnosis is likely to have a positive effect on the quality of care offered.

The Florida Mental Health Helpline experts understand how challenging it can be to live with a mental disorder and face hurdles involved in getting adequate and timely treatment. If you or your loved is afflicted with any mental health problem, the team of specialists can connect you to the finest Florida mental health rehab center near you. Call our 24/7 helpline (866) 846-5588 or chat online with our representatives for further assistance.

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