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Mental disorders as networks of problems: a review of recent insights

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      The network perspective on psychopathology understands mental disorders as complex networks of interacting symptoms. Despite its recent debut, with conceptual foundations in 2008 and empirical foundations in 2010, the framework has received considerable attention and recognition in the last years.


      This paper provides a review of all empirical network studies published between 2010 and 2016 and discusses them according to three main themes: comorbidity, prediction, and clinical intervention.


      Pertaining to comorbidity, the network approach provides a powerful new framework to explain why certain disorders may co-occur more often than others. For prediction, studies have consistently found that symptom networks of people with mental disorders show different characteristics than that of healthy individuals, and preliminary evidence suggests that networks of healthy people show early warning signals before shifting into disordered states. For intervention, centrality—a metric that measures how connected and clinically relevant a symptom is in a network—is the most commonly studied topic, and numerous studies have suggested that targeting the most central symptoms may offer novel therapeutic strategies.


      We sketch future directions for the network approach pertaining to both clinical and methodological research, and conclude that network analysis has yielded important insights and may provide an important inroad towards personalized medicine by investigating the network structures of individual patients.

      Electronic supplementary material

      The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00127-016-1319-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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            Author and article information

            [1 ]Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 129-B, Room G0.28, 1001NK Amsterdam, Netherlands
            [2 ]Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
            Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol
            Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol
            Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
            Springer Berlin Heidelberg (Berlin/Heidelberg )
            5 December 2016
            5 December 2016
            : 52
            : 1
            : 1-10
            27921134 5226976 1319 10.1007/s00127-016-1319-z
            © The Author(s) 2016

            Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

            Funded by: FundRef, European Research Council;
            Award ID: 647209
            Award Recipient :
            Invited Reviews
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            © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017


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