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Oklahoma State University

OSU psychologist helps advance mental health diagnosis

Mon, March 20, 2017
Dr. Stephanie N. Mullins-Sweatt

Dr. Stephanie N. Mullins-Sweatt, associate professor of psychology and director of clinical training at Oklahoma State University, is among a group of international psychologists and psychiatrists who have developed a new mental health model to help clinicians provide more accurate and useful diagnoses.

The Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) was developed to address several shortcomings in the current classification system, including diagnostic overlap for patients that have more than one condition.  For instance, there is a high correlation between depression and anxiety.

“If someone is diagnosed with one personality disorder, 66 percent will be diagnosed with a second, and if someone is diagnosed with a second, they are incrementally more likely to be diagnosed with a third,” said Mullins-Sweatt.

The HiTOP model offers new ways of classifying mental health disorders, taking into account that a patient may have two or more related conditions or diseases and proposes a view of mental health as a spectrum while simplifying classifications and adhering to the latest biological scientific information.  The ultimate goal is to provide a better framework for both clinicians and researchers.  An upcoming article in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology is an anticipated first step toward reaching a wider audience with the system.

More than 50 researchers contributed to the project, with Roman Kotov, Stony Brook University; Robert Krueger, University of Minnesota, and   David Watson with the University of Notre Dame, taking the lead. 

Mullins-Sweatt is in her eighth year at OSU, where she heads the Personality and Psychopathology Lab.  She earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Kentucky in 2009.