Studying Mental Health Problems as Systems, Not Syndromes

This article by Eiko I. Fried has been published in Sage Journals. The abstract says:

“Despite decades of clinical, sociopolitical, and research efforts, progress in understanding and treating mental health problems remains disappointing. I discuss two barriers that have contributed to a problematic oversimplification of mental illness. The first is diagnostic literalism, mistaking mental health problems (complex within-person processes) for the diagnoses by which they are classified (clinically useful idealizations to facilitate treatment selection and prognosis). The second is reductionism, the isolated study of individual elements of mental disorders. I propose conceptualizing people’s mental health states as outcomes emerging from complex systems of biological, psychological, and social elements and show that this systems perspective explains many robust phenomena, including variability within diagnoses, comorbidity among diagnoses, and transdiagnostic risk factors. It helps us understand diagnoses and reductionism as useful epistemological tools for describing the world, rather than ontological convictions about how the world is. It provides new lenses through which to study mental illness (e.g., attractor states, phase transitions), and new levers to treat them (e.g., early warning signals, novel treatment targets). Embracing the complexity of mental health problems requires opening our ivory towers to theories and methods from other fields with rich traditions, including network and systems sciences.”

You can read the full article from here.

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