D for Diagnosis: Ever Changing Labels

Treatment for most mental health problems is designed for the “unicorns”; people who have just one clear-cut diagnosis. But in reality, many people experience more than one problem and their symptoms can be shared across different formal diagnostic categories. The true picture is one of cross-cutting, porous diagnostic boundaries.
In this third and final programme in her series, Claudia looks at how new science is adapting to this new reality, making links between and within the traditional boundaries of different conditions in order to develop new treatments. The hope is that the end result will be more personalised, individualised treatments rather than a one-size fits all approach to care.
Researchers at the MRC’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge are working across boundaries with a new strategy called the transdiagnostic approach. They are testing new treatment modules where the person needing help, whether they have anxiety, depression, OCD or PTSD, is supported to select from a menu of treatments, like a pick and mix choice, to target the symptoms that are most affecting them. This transdiagnostic approach, Professor Tim Dalgleish says, better matches how people experience mental health difficulties in real life. Pat and Emily tell Claudia how the transdiagnostic treatments have given them new tools to cope with their difficulties and clinical psychologists and research scientists Dr Melissa Black and Dr Caitlin Hitchcock describe how this approach could be adapted for many other mental health problems.

You can listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme here


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