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Book Reviews   |    
Psychopathology: Foundation for a Contemporary Understanding
Reviewed by Michael B. Sheikman, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 2005; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.56.11.1467
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edited by James E. Maddux and Barbara A. Winstead; Mahway, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005, 480 pages, $55

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Psychopathology: Foundation for a Contemporary Understanding, written by well-known authors, provides up-to-date information about the theory of and research on the etiology and treatment of the most important psychological disorders and challenges students to think critically about psychopathology. The book is divided into two main parts. The first part is devoted to discussions of the main ideas and concepts of psychopathology. The second part is devoted to discussions of the most common problems and disorders in adults, adolescents, and children, including the description of each disorder, its history, theory of and research on etiology, and treatments. It ends with a chapter on mental health and aging.

The authors of the chapters in this book do not diminish psychology and psychiatry, even though there is the acknowledgment that basic concepts in these fields have traditionally been socially rather than scientifically constructed. Science cannot provide us with factual, static definitions of concepts in psychiatry, because the concepts are fluid and negotiated matters of value, not fixed matters of fact. Cultural psychopathology research, as discussed in the first part of the book, serves as an important site for integrating ethnographic, observational, clinical, and epidemiologic research approaches. The increasing cultural diversity of the United States and the massive movement of people around the globe provide both an opportunity and an imperative for cultural psychopathology research.

Furthermore, identifying and explaining the role played by sex or gender in psychopathology and its treatment are ongoing challenges for clinical scientists. These are all challenges for DSM-V. Nobody is fully satisfied with or lacks valid criticisms of DSM-IV and ICD-10, but these texts at least provide a common language of communication and a well-validated foil for future contenders to overcome.

The first part of the book includes a chapter on the biological bases of psychopathology; this chapter gives a review of some aspects of the neurobiology and genetics of depression, mania, psychosis, and personality disorders, supporting a general conceptual model of psychopathology as a complex interaction among genetically influenced neurobiologic behavioral traits, dysregulation of various brain systems, and the central nervous system response to environmental stress.

The common disorders covered in Part 2 include anxiety, mood, schizophrenic, personality, eating, somatoform, and substance use disorders. Cognitive disorders of childhood and adolescence are also covered.

Psychopathology is well organized and clearly written and is a valuable new resource for instructors and students.

Dr. Sheikman lives in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

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