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Symptom modelling can be influenced by psychiatric categories: choices for research domain criteria (RDoC)

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/09/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics
Issue number4
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)279-294
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date10/07/17
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Psychiatric researchers typically assume that the modelling of psychiatric symptoms is not influenced by psychiatric categories; symptoms are modelled and then grouped into a psychiatric category. I highlight this primarily through analysing research domain criteria (RDoC). RDoC's importance makes it worth scrutinizing, and this assessment also serves as a case study with relevance for other areas of psychiatry. RDoC takes inadequacies of existing psychiatric categories as holding back causal investigation. Consequently, RDoC aims to circumnavigate existing psychiatric categories by directly investigating the causal basis of symptoms. The unique methodological approach of RDoC exploits the supposed lack of influence of psychiatric categories on symptom modelling, taking psychiatric symptoms as the same regardless of which psychiatric category is employed or if no psychiatric category is employed. But this supposition is not always true. I will show how psychiatric categories can influence symptom modelling, whereby identical behaviours can be considered as different symptoms based on an individual's psychiatric diagnosis. If the modelling of symptoms is influenced by psychiatric categories, then psychiatric categories will still play a role, a situation which RDoC researchers explicitly aim to avoid. I discuss four ways RDoC could address this issue. This issue also has important implications for factor analysis, cluster analysis, modifying psychiatric categories, and symptom based approaches.