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PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e27407. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027407. Epub 2011 Nov 17.

The small world of psychopathology.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. d.borsboom@uva.nl

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

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).

PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

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.

CONCLUSIONS:

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.

PMID:
22114671
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3219664
Free PMC Article

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