Redefining mental illness

Psychological researchers are finally making some major and much-needed changes in how they look at and classify anxiety, psychosis, and other problems:

Two months ago, the British Psychological Society released a remarkable document entitled “Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia.” Its authors say that hearing voices and feeling paranoid are common experiences, and are often a reaction to trauma, abuse or deprivation: “Calling them symptoms of mental illness, psychosis or schizophrenia is only one way of thinking about them, with advantages and disadvantages.”

The report says that there is no strict dividing line between psychosis and normal experience: “Some people find it useful to think of themselves as having an illness. Others prefer to think of their problems as, for example, an aspect of their personality which sometimes gets them into trouble but which they would not want to be without.”

In the US, decades of research failed to find unique biological underpinnings to diagnostic categories such as depression, schizophrenia, and PTSD. Now brain researchers are abandoning that approach. Instead of studying anxiety, they will look at the neurological basis of fear.

These new developments are long overdue, in my opinion. I’m delighted the mainstream psychology establishment is finally starting to catch on to what a lot of us in the trenches have known or suspected for a long, long time.

Read the entire New York Times article

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