The ultimate goal of New Science of Mental Disorders (NSMD) is to improve the treatment of mental disorders.
The ultimate goal of New Science of Mental Disorders (NSMD) is to improve the treatment of mental disorders. To do this, we first need a better understanding of the clinical picture of disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, addiction, eating disorders, and so on. Around one in four adults and one in ten children suffer from a mental disorder at some point. But in half of these cases, treatment is not successful in the long term. We believe that this is partly due to the way in which these disorders have been viewed until now.
Our vision: the network of symptoms constitutes the disorder
We share a new perspective on mental disorders that goes beyond the categories of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is by far the most widely used diagnostic tool for mental disorders. The DSM follows the medical model that assumes a deeper cause that could explain all the symptoms of a mental disorder. According to our model, the various symptoms that a person has constitute the actual disorder. By mapping these symptoms, as well as identifying how they interact with each other (influenced by behaviour, thoughts, brain activity and social relationships), we think we can develop better treatments. We believe that the network of symptoms that a person has is often transdiagnostic in nature, meaning that it usually does not necessarily fit within one particular diagnosis as it is currently defined in the DSM. Treatment should target this transdiagnostic network of symptoms, and this network is different for each individual.
A practical example
The DSM (which is by far the most widely used diagnostic tool for mental disorders), uses nine symptoms that determine the clinical picture of ‘depression’. If an individual has at least five of the nine symptoms, they are diagnosed with ‘depression’ and are usually prescribed a standardised treatment protocol for depression. However, person A may have five different symptoms than person B, even though they are both diagnosed with depression. In addition, person A could also have an addiction problem while person B could be experiencing anxiety. With the current standard of care, these individuals with different symptoms are likely to receive a similar treatment according to the ‘depression protocol’. By customising the treatment protocol based on the individual’s specific network of symptoms rather than basing it on a generalised protocol, we believe that the treatment will be more effective. Ultimately, this would mean that person A would receive a different treatment protocol than person B, based on his or her own personal symptom network.