Is Psychiatry Out of Touch with Science?

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mental healthThe field of psychiatry is in need of drastic changes because psychiatrists are focusing on defining disorders by causes instead of symptoms.  Many experts are saying that psychiatry is not keeping up with the latest research and changes need to be made.

The need for changes was brought into the limelight by Dr. Thomas Insel, who is the director of the National Institute of Mental Health.  Insel recently spoke about the most recent edition of the top book on mental disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.), stating that the book did not have enough scientific validity.

Dr. Steven E. Hyman, former director at the National Institute of Mental Health and current psychiatrist at the Broad Institute, said that the D.S.M. was an invaluable book during the 60′s and 70′s but it has not kept up the the new discoveries using neuroscience and genetics.

Dr. David J. Kupfer, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and one of the chairman for making revisions in the D.S.M., agrees with Insel that the revised book is not as comprehensive as it should be in incorporating genetic and biological factors in the book.

Insel said psychiatric research needs to get away from just using symptoms to classify disorders and focus on genetics, neuroscience, and biology.  He said the D.S.M. book is still viable, but it doesn’t address the complex problems with a variety of disorders and should not be taken as the bible of mental disorders.

More focus on genetics is one of the key factors in improving mental health disorder diagnosis and treatment, according to Insel.   Genetic research has shown that some genetic defects may be signs that a person has a higher chance of suffering from bipolar disorders, autism, and schizophrenia.

A new federal project called the Research Domain Citeria (RDoC) has been started byDr. Insel in which there will be a trend of getting away from using categories in the D.S.M. because there is a better way to help mental disorder patients.  The new focus will be on biological aspects of diagnosis and treatment.  Insel wants to start a new way of understanding and treating mental disorders.

Using antidepressants to deal with mental disorders is not dealing with the real cause of the disease.   Recent studies have shown that many antidepressants do not work much better than placebos.  Many psychiatrists are moving away from just prescribing antidepressants to their patients and are looking for new ways to deal with mental disorders including more scientific research.

Understanding the biology of mental disorders is still frustrating to scientists because of the complexity of the human brain but more progress is now being made that in past decades.

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