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Beliefs about essences and the reality of mental disorders
Psychological Science (2006)
  • Woo-kyoung Ahn, Yale University
  • Elizabeth H. Flanagan, Yale University
  • Jessecae K. Marsh, Yale University
  • Charles A. Sanislow, Yale University

Do people believe mental disorders are real and possess underlying essences? The current study found that both novices and practicing clinicians held weaker essentialist beliefs about mental disorders than about medical disorders. They were also unwilling to endorse the idea that mental disorders are real and natural. Furthermore, compared with novices, mental health clinicians were less likely to endorse the view that there is a shared cause underlying a mental disorder and that one needs to remove the cause to get rid of the mental disorder. Clinicians were polarized on their views about whether mental disorders are categorical or dimensional. These findings reflect current controversies about mental disorders in the field at large.

  • Mental Disorders,
  • Personality Disorders,
  • Diagnosis,
  • Categories,
  • Real Kinds,
  • Essential Features
Publication Date
September, 2006
Citation Information
Ahn, W. K., Flanagan, E. H., Marsh, J. K., & Sanislow, C. A. (2006). Beliefs about essences and the reality of mental disorders. Psychological Science, 17(9), 759-766.