ISSN 2051-8315
Psychopathology Review
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 Volume 2, Issue 1, 129-153, 2015
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Classification of Psychopathology and Unifying Theory The Ingredients of a Darwinian Paradigm Shift in Research Methodology

  Warren Mansell - School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, UK
  Timothy Carey - Centre for Remote Health, a Joint Centre of Flinders University and Charles Darwin University; Central Australian Mental Health Service, NT Department of Health
  Sara Tai - School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, UK

Volume 2, Issue 1, 2015, Pages 129-153

The field of psychopathology needs a paradigm shift to revitalise its research methodology and translational practice. We describe Darwin’s transformation of biology and its implications for science and culture, and we infer the implications of an analogous approach to psychopathology. Darwin challenged the assumptions of the biological classification system with compelling evidence to support a quantifiable, mechanistic theory of change across all life. Specifically, he showed that species were changeable, that individuals showed substantial variation in their features, and that these features were functional adaptations to the environment. Similarly, there is substantial evidence of continuous change, shared symptoms and functionality across the categories of psychiatric classification. Our novel research methodology, inspired by perceptual control theory, include both qualitative and quantitative methods, and entail the study of universal processes within heterogeneous samples and studying dynamic processes prospectively within individual cases, drawing direct analogies with evolutionary dynamic systems (e.g. trade-offs, speciation).

Table of Contents
Darwin’s Paradigm Shift
The Analogy with Psychopathology
 Different mental disorders share symptoms
 Symptoms vary in degree rather than in absolute terms across disorders, and between disorders and the nonclinical population
 There is important individual variation between people with the same diagnosis
 Diagnosis changes over time, including recovery
 Symptoms are instances or signs of psychological mechanisms that have both functional and maladaptive properties
 A transdiagnostic theory may explain the maintenance of distress across disorders
 The theory needs to be algorithmic, mechanistic, and quantitative, allowing modelling and testing
Implications for Research Methodology
 Universal factors: observation and phenomenology
 Universal factors: quantitative methods
 Descriptive phenomenology of individuals
 Quantitative investigations within individuals
 Hybrid designs
 Novel hypotheses about symptom development based on Darwinian concepts
  Speciation and divergent trajectories of psychopathology.
  Frequency dependence.
Transdiagnostic interventions

Correspondence to
Dr Warren Mansell, Reader in Clinical Psychology, School of Psychological Sciences, Coupland I, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL. UK

diagnosis, psychopathology, philosophy of science, control theory

Received 27 Feb 2014; Revised 2 Jul 2014; Accepted 4 Jul 2014; In Press 14 Feb 2015

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