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Psychiatr Q. 2008 Sep;79(3):157-70. doi: 10.1007/s11126-008-9076-0. Epub 2008 Sep 3.

The diagnosis and treatment of individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities: an overview.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, CB 7160, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7160, USA.



The assessment and treatment psychiatric disorders among individuals with developmental disorders is in a state of flux. Clinicians working in this field confront two heterogeneous conditions based on separate but overlapping biopsychosocial bodies of scientific and clinical experiences.


The paper is a review of the relevant literature and an effort to synthesize sokme of the major problem areas in differential diagnosis and treatment planning.


There are many genetic, metabolic and neurobehavioral factors that influence both challenging behaviors and the emergence, recognition, and clinical course of mental disorders in people with developmental disorders. As such, clinicians need to redefine dichotomous thinking about boundaries between psychiatrics, neurologic, and behavioral disorders and therapies.


Even though there are efforts to adapt our various systems of nomenclature for individuals with developmental disorders, most still rely on descriptive and categorical models. It may be time to reconsider models that incorporate etiological factors in the process of differential diagnosis and classification. By doing so, clinicians may enhance their capacity to match individuals with more finely tuned treatment plans.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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