Classification: Categorical Approach Versus Dimensional Approach

Classifications of psychopathology can represent mental health disorders as a set of discrete categories or as a set of underlying continuous dimensions. This distinction is fundamental to how we think about the nature of mental health disorders and has many implications for theory, research, and clinical practice. A large research literature has attempted to test categorical and dimensional models of psychopathology, and recent classification systems have wrestled with the issue. Before reviewing the varied implications, research literatures, and classification controversies, an overview of the conceptual distinction between categorical dimensional approaches is useful.

Conceptual Background

Traditionally, medical classifications aim to do two things. First, they lay out a set of conditions and organize these conditions in a systematic way. Second, they identify a number of distinctive signs and ...

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