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HiTOP: Personalized and realistic approach to mental health diagnosis

HiTOP: Personalized and realistic approach to mental health diagnosis

14 August | 0 Comments | By Rachael

Diagnosing mental disorders is challenging and is subjected to disagreements and debates. Due to lack of objective evidence and authentic tools to investigate the underlying problem, psychologists are dependent upon their experiences, self-reported symptoms of patients and questionnaires answered by patients and their families.

Over the years, the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has been an official guidebook on mental health helping clinicians in classifying and diagnosing mental disorders. The latest version, DSM-5, has been increasingly criticized for its frequent upgradation and a narrow classification system. Critics claim that the manual is more disorder-centric rather than people-centric. Describing a patient’s health is linked to finding the right category first.

Recently, consortium of eminent psychologists and psychiatrists from worldwide universities, co-led by Stony Brook University, University of Minnesota and University of Notre Dame researchers, has proposed a new and more effective system to diagnose mental disorders. The new system is called the Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP).

HiTOP, modeled on identifying symptoms

The Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) is a new innovative model of mental health diagnosis. The researchers, looking to help patients in finding the right treatment and aiding drug companies manufacture new drugs based on accurate diagnosis, came up with this new technique, publishing their findings in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Unlike the DSM-5, which is entirely dependent on finding a category that would best define a patient, HiTOP creates a profile of patients with focus on the symptoms and not the disorder.

A good example of the model’s effectiveness is seen through the categorization of social anxiety disorder, listed as a single category under DSM-5. The HiTOP describes social anxiety disorder as a graded dimension ranging from people who experience mild discomfort in some social situations to those who are extremely fearful and anxious. HiTOP proposes treatment modalities that recognize important differences between interpersonal fears and performance fears. It also recognizes the high probability of one disorder co-occurring with other mental illnesses like depression and other anxiety disorders.

The approach is helpful in a way that many patients approach a therapist with symptoms of more than one mental disorder, which heightens the chances of insufficient assessment. Many patients who do not meet the clinical criteria may be left untreated despite suffering from a significant impairment.

According to Dr. Roman Kotov, lead author of the study and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, “First, the system proposes to view mental disorders as spectra. Second, the HiTOP system uses empirical evidence to understand overlap among these disorders and classify different presentations of patients with a given disorder.”

However, there are still some hitches left before the new technique becomes operational. The researchers are now looking at ways how to implement the model in the clinics, which is a challenge due to the over-dependency of the system on the DSM-5, linking it to health insurance payment process.

Road to recovery

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental health problems are affecting Americans at a very alarming rate. Nearly one in 25 adults experiences a serious mental illness with debilitating consequences. However, the key to good mental health is early diagnosis and treatment.

The Arizona Mental Health Helpline is a one-stop resource to help you find evidence-based mental health treatment centers in Arizona where trained health experts provide therapeutic programs addressing the underlying issues. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number (866) 606-7791 or chat with an expert to know more about residential mental health treatment centers in Arizona.