Posted: February 25th, 2023

n many realms of medicine, objective diagnoses can be made: A clavicula is broken. An infection is present. TSH levels meet the diagnostic criteria for hypothyroidism. Psychiatry, on the other hand, deals with psychological phenomena and behaviors. Can these, too, be “defined objectively and by scientific criteria (Gergen, 1985), or are they social constructions?” (Boland, Verduin, & Ruiz, 2022).

Thanks to myriad advances during recent decades, we know that psychopathology is caused by many interacting factors. Theoretical and clinical contributions to the field have come from the neural sciences, genetics, psychology, and social-cultural sciences. How do these factors impact the expression, classification, diagnosis, and prevalence of psychopathology, and why might it be important for a nurse practitioner to take a multidimensional, integrative approach?

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Psychological phenomena and behaviors are complex and multifaceted, which makes it challenging to define and diagnose them objectively using only scientific criteria. Although there have been significant advances in the field of psychiatry, the diagnosis and classification of psychopathology still rely on subjective assessments of behavioral patterns, experiences, and symptoms reported by patients. Factors that contribute to the expression, classification, diagnosis, and prevalence of psychopathology include biological, psychological, and environmental influences. For example, genetic factors can influence an individual’s susceptibility to certain mental illnesses, while environmental factors such as trauma, abuse, or substance abuse can trigger the onset of symptoms. Psychological factors such as cognitive biases and coping mechanisms can also impact how an individual experiences and responds to stressors.

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