Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Personality Disorder, DSM-5, and Genetics

This article addresses some of the research issues encountered with behavioral genetics as it applies to human mental health. The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is a controversial but in many ways important tool for researchers seeking to improve treatment for mental illness spectrum disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. However, there is a lot of important dialogue in the field of behavioral genetics that discusses the extent to which the constructed (and inevitably distilled and in many cases socially problematic) definitions of certain "mental illnesses" encourage adherence to an inductive research paradigm where results are ultimately constrained by researchers' preconceived understandings of mental illness as formulated by the DSM. It is argued that this approach ultimately not only prevents better treatment but also often contributes to discrimination in healthcare. There are also clear cases, as with autism, of semantic oversimplification of what is a much more complex issue of genetic and environmental variation. I think these are important debates to think about when considering how behavioral genetics/genomics can be applied to human psychopharmacology.


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