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The Small World of Psychopathology

By Borsboom Denny, Cramer Angélique O. J., Schmittmann Verena D., Epskamp Sacha and Waldorp Lourens J.

Abstract

Mental disorders are highly comorbid: people having one disorder are likely to have another as well. We explain empirical comorbidity patterns based on a network model of psychiatric symptoms, derived from an analysis of symptom overlap in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (DSM-IV).We show that a) half of the symptoms in the DSM-IV network are connected, b) the architecture of these connections conforms to a small world structure, featuring a high degree of clustering but a short average path length, and c) distances between disorders in this structure predict empirical comorbidity rates. Network simulations of Major Depressive Episode and Generalized Anxiety Disorder show that the model faithfully reproduces empirical population statistics for these disorders.In the network model, mental disorders are inherently complex. This explains the limited successes of genetic, neuroscientific, and etiological approaches to unravel their causes. We outline a psychosystems approach to investigate the structure and dynamics of mental disorders

Publisher: Public Library of Science
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027407
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