The role of psychopathology in modern psychiatry

A. Fiorillo 1, B. Dell’Osso 2, G. Maina 3, A. Fagiolini 4

1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”, Naples, Italy; 2 University of Milan, Department of Mental Health, Fondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda Policlinico, Milan, Italy; Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Bipolar Disorders Clinic, Stanford University, CA, USA; “Aldo Ravelli” Center for Neurotechnology and Brain Therapeutic, University of Milan, Italy; 3 Rita Levi Montalcini Department of Neuroscience, University of Turin, Italy; 4 University of Siena, Department of Molecular and Developmental Medicine, Siena, Italy

Psychiatry has been significantly influenced by the social, economic and scientific changes that have occurred within the last few years. These influences have evolved psychiatry into a modern medical specialty that is increasingly knowledgeable about the structure and function of the brain, mind (thoughts, feelings, and consciousness), behaviors and social relationships. Nonetheless, this knowledge has not uniformly spread and, in many institutions, psychiatric education and practice remain largely based on knowledge developed over the last century. Over a century ago, the target of psychiatry was madness, and psychiatrists were called “alienists”. Along the years, the target has changed: for a number of years psychiatrists have been asked to treat mental disorders, and now the target has evolved to include the promotion of the mental health of the general population. In fact, some traditional illnesses have seemingly disappeared from clinical observation (e.g., organic brain disorder or involutional depression which were listed among the DSM-III diagnoses), while new forms of mental health problems have become of frequent observation by psychiatrists.

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