What is it about?

There is a lot of debate on how mental disorders should be described and how they should be explained. Using depression as an example, this paper looks at the challenges with how we 1) describe mental disorders; 2) decide what mental disorders are; and 3) how we best explain them.

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Why is it important?

The way we describe mental disorders is important to how we explain them. For example, most of our research on depression revolves around how it is described by the DSM. However, the descriptions of depression in the DSM have been critiqued for being too broad - making them hard to explain. We argue that more focus needs to be put on understanding the specific features (i.e., symptoms) that make up our descriptions of disorders like depression. Finally, these features should be understood from multiple perspectives (i.e., biological, psychological, social etc.).


My hope is that this article gets people thinking about how we describe and explain mental disorders like depression. Some of the challenges outlined in this paper will be difficult to solve. But at the very least, I wanted researchers to understand that we can't take things like the DSM for granted. It is not enough to conclude that finding X is associated with depression, as the features of depression may vary significantly between individuals. Instead, we need to take the time to specify the depressive features (i.e., symptoms and signs) that make up our participant groups.

Mr Samuel Clack
Victoria University of Wellington

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The Classification and Explanation of Depression, Behaviour Change, February 2019, Cambridge University Press,
DOI: 10.1017/bec.2019.4.
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