Benjamin Lahey, PhD, the Irving B. Harris Professor of Epidemiology, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Neuroscience, has published a new book, Dimensions of Psychological Problems: Replacing Diagnostic Categories with a More Science-Based and Less Stigmatizing Alternative. The book is aimed at psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, as well as students who are entering the mental health professions to advocate for a new way of thinking about psychological problems.
“First and foremost, we must stop believing that psychological problems reflect rare and terrifying ‘illnesses’ of the mind. They are simply ordinary aspects of our lives,” Lahey writes in the preface to the book. “Crucially, psychological problems are ordinary in the sense of arising through the same natural processes as all aspects of our behavior, and they are ordinary in the sense of being far more commonplace than we usually think.”
Lahey calls for changes to the way mental health problems are defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association, and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), published by the World Health Organization, the two dominant reference manuals used to classify and diagnose mental health disorders.
“For too long, these problems have been classified based on tradition, as opposed to evidence,” writes Robert F. Kruger from the University of Minnesota in a review. “Lahey shows how the classification of psychological problems can be based on data pointing to underlying dimensions of human experience, thereby solving numerous scientific dilemmas, while also reducing stigma.”
“My strong hope is that thinking about psychological problems in new this way will reduce our tendency to stigmatize them in ourselves and others,” Lahey said. “It will be much harder to stigmatize psychological problems if we accept that almost all of us will experience them at some point in our lives.”
Dimensions of Psychological Problems is available now from Oxford University Press.