Unlocking the Power of Transdiagnostic Approaches


Unlocking the Power of Transdiagnostic Approaches

Perhaps you have a diagnosis of ADHD and you have come across somebody with a completely different diagnosis, and thought “hmm, we seem to share quite similar symptoms”, and you could be right! With increasing awareness and research into different psychological disorders, we are becoming more aware that many conditions share similar symptoms and expressions. When there is a mechanism that seems to be common in many conditions, we call it a transdiagnostic process. This may be something like difficulties with attention, or memory issues. A more specific example of a transdiagnostic process could be repetitive negative thinking. This is a common symptom in both depression and anxiety, however the way in which it manifests can be different across the disorders.

The development of our understanding of transdiagnostic processes has been very beneficial when it comes to treatment of different conditions. It has been noted that conditions such as depression and anxiety share many aetiological processes. What is meant by this is that they have similar risk factors, whether that is genetic, environmental, or an interaction between the two. Therefore, it can be beneficial to keep this in mind when treating such conditions. Using the research surrounding transdiagnostic processes, we have learnt that treatment can be extremely successful when we treat the underlying mechanisms surrounding the disorder, as opposed to the symptoms that are resulting. For example, as previously mentioned, repetitive negative thinking is a pattern seen in many disorders and is especially prevalent in depression and anxiety. By targeting this thinking, through processes such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), individuals can often see a significant improvement in their symptoms overtime, regardless of the specific condition.

When receiving a diagnosis of a psychiatric condition, or really any condition, healthcare professionals typically have a strict list of criteria in order to make a diagnosis. However, within the field of psychology, this can often lead to problems. As mentioned, many conditions have overlapping symptoms with each other, meaning one condition could just as easily appear like another condition. Similarly, these diagnostic criteria have previously being criticised for viewing conditions as “all-or-none”, meaning they fail to recognise that sometimes a condition isn’t simply that you either have it or you don’t, and that they should instead be viewed on a spectrum. Therefore, the transdiagnostic approach favours less reliance on these typical diagnostic tools, and instead more focus on treating underlying causes or symptoms, whether these are specific to a condition or not.

At the London Neurocognitive Clinic, we adopt a holistic view, meaning we consider the whole person, and the whole situation. Rather than focusing on simply one aspect, we understand that sometimes problems can be caused by multiple aspects working together, and rather than labelling a condition, we should instead focus on alleviating the effect that these aspects may be having.

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