Five new types of psychological illness
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Five new types of psychological illness

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Five new types of psychological illness

In research pioneered by Stanford University, researchers established five new types of psychological illness that cut through the existing broader diagnoses of depression and anxiety.

These new five categories are tension, anxious arousal, chronic anxiety, anhedonia-the inability to sense satisfaction- and melancholia. Each of them features particular symptoms and areas of brain activation.

In JAMA Psychiatry, researchers stated their attempt to dissociate the symptom similarities in the new diagnoses to aid personalized treatment options.

The study is part of a larger initiative by Leanne Williams (Ph.D.), professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

She's the study’s senior researcher using and her lab, together with other organizations in the field of psychiatric neuroscience. The research is to properly assess psychiatric disorders and develop better care plans for the millions of citizens who suffer from them.

According to the research, depression, and anxiety are reportedly the leading causes of disabilities and productivity loss globally, and only about one-third of patients recover after treatment.

The researchers clarified that the large medical types of anxiety and depression, as described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, have so many associated symptoms that make it challenging to distinguish biological markers for possible therapies or treatments.

“At the moment, the treatments are the same for those in these broad categories," Williams said. “By improving the diagnosis, psychiatrists could administer improved treatment options, tailored to these categories of anxiety or depression.”

The researchers gathered and analyzed data from 420 participants. Participants comprised those with healthy diagnoses and those with double anxiety and depression diagnoses.

The participants undertook series of experiments like brain mapping, symptom self-reporting, and clinical diagnostic testing. Researchers assessed participants' capacity to work in daily life, their capacity to establish social relationships, and their overall perspective on life.

In a second independent survey, 381 people underwent the same examinations. Researchers analyzed the data through a data-driven approach that included machine learning techniques. After the analysis, they were able to classify the same five new categories in both groups.

Results showed that anxiety arousal affected 13%, chronic anxiety affected 9%, anhedonia affected 7%, melancholia affected 9%, and tension affected 19%. As the study’s lead author and research lab manager in Williams’s lab reported, some participants did not meet diagnostic criteria yet had symptoms traceable to the tension category.

Further characterization of the new categories by the researchers:

Tension is defined by irritability. People are overly sensitive, short-tempered, and stressed. The nervous system becomes hypersensitive as a result of anxiety.

Anxious arousal impairs cognitive performance, such as the ability to focus and regulate thoughts. A pounding heart, sweating, and a sensation of tension are all physical symptoms. Sometimes people say things like, 'I feel like I'm going insane,’ or can’t recollect from one moment to the next.’

Melancholia is a condition in which people have difficulty interacting with others. Limited social relationships further worsen melancholia.

Anhedonia means the inability to sense pleasure. This form of depression is mostly undiagnosed. Even when the patients are in a state of extreme distress, they are always able to function relatively. The way to know this condition is by examining how the brain functions in overdrive, said Williams. Williams further stressed the people who experience anhedonia can perform but may eventually become exhausted. Surprisingly, they are among the most depressed people.

Chronic anxiety is a broad-sweeping category of anxiety. The main symptoms are worry and anxious arousal.

These symptoms constitute a more physical type of stress.


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