The Origins of Mental Disorders

The recent article in the New York Times outlining research on the preschool-age depression has raised public interest in the origins of mental disorders. Many non-scholars and even some psychologists are skeptical about the emergence of psychological problems in very young children. The stability of temperament (personalities traits such as extraversion and introversion) is now well-established. Given the embrace that early life extroversion predicts later life behavior, it is curious that finding early life correlates to mental disorders in preschool has caused such negative reactions. The issues related to the negative impacts of labeling, the possible effects of longterm medication use, as well as concerns of overdiagnosis are reasonable concerns. However, the benefits of early identification and treatment could outweigh the costs. Looking to the next DSM, and the concerns expressed previously, we hope to better see how developmental aspects of psychopathology will be taken into account.