Moving forward: challenges and directions for psychopathological network theory and methodology
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Description: Since the introduction of mental disorders as networks of causally interacting symptoms, this novel framework has received considerable attention. The past years have resulted in over 40 scientific publications and numerous conference symposia and workshops. Now is an excellent moment to take stock of the network approach: what are its most fundamental challenges, and what are potential ways forward in addressing them? After a brief conceptual introduction, we first discuss challenges to network theory: (1) What is the validity of the network approach beyond some commonly investigated disorders such as major depression? (2) How do we best define psychopathological networks and their constituent elements? (3) And how can we gain a better understanding of the causal nature and real-life underpinnings of associations among symptoms? Next, after a short technical introduction to network modeling, we discuss challenges to network methodology: (4) Heterogeneity of samples studied with network analytic models; and (5) a lurking replicability crisis in this strongly data-driven and exploratory field. Addressing these challenges may propel the network approach from its adolescence into adulthood, and promises advances in understanding psychopathology both at the nomothetic and idiographic level.