Specificity of psychopathology across levels of severity: a transdiagnostic network analysis

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A prominent hypothesis within the field of psychiatry is that the manifestation of psychopathology changes from non-specific to specific as illness severity increases. Using a transdiagnostic network approach, we investigated this hypothesis in four independent groups with increasing psychopathology severity. We investigated whether symptom domains became more interrelated and formed more clusters as illness severity increased, using empirical tests for two network characteristics: global network strength and modularity-based community detection. Four severity groups, ranging from subthreshold psychopathology to having received a diagnosis and treatment, were derived with a standardized diagnostic interview conducted at age 18.5 (n = 1933; TRAILS cohort). Symptom domains were assessed using the Adult Self Report (ASR). Pairwise comparisons of the symptom networks across groups showed no difference in global network strength between severity groups. Similar number and type of communities detected in the four groups exceeded the more minor differences across groups. Common clusters consisted of domains associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and combined depression and anxiety domains. Based on the strength of symptom domain associations and symptom clustering using a network approach, we found no support for the hypothesis that the manifestation of psychopathology along the severity continuum changes from non-specific to specific.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18298
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4-Dec-2019



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