March 13, 2017

A unifying framework for evolutionary psychopathology

Marco Del Giudice, University of New Mexico

Evolutionary approaches to psychopathology have generated many innovative models of specific mental disorders, as well as a growing empirical literature. However, the field as a whole remains highly fragmented, and has not yet produced a biologically grounded alternative to existing classification systems. In this talk I introduce a unifying framework for mental disorders based on life history concepts. The updated classification model I present distinguishes between fast spectrum conditions (e.g., antisocial/conduct disorders and schizophrenia), slow spectrum conditions (e.g., obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and a variant of autism), and defense activation disorders (e.g., depression and phobias). I illustrate how this approach can be used to draw functionally important distinctions within single diagnostic categories and make sense of broad patterns of comorbidity, developmental patterns, and epidemiological risk factors. Finally, I present simulation results showing that the life history model successfully reproduces the observed structure of mental disorders, including the internalizing-externalizing distinction and the emergence of a “p factor” of generalized susceptibility to psychopathology.