Network analysis: an integrative approach to the structure of psychopathology

Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2013;9:91-121. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050212-185608.


In network approaches to psychopathology, disorders result from the causal interplay between symptoms (e.g., worry → insomnia → fatigue), possibly involving feedback loops (e.g., a person may engage in substance abuse to forget the problems that arose due to substance abuse). The present review examines methodologies suited to identify such symptom networks and discusses network analysis techniques that may be used to extract clinically and scientifically useful information from such networks (e.g., which symptom is most central in a person's network). The authors also show how network analysis techniques may be used to construct simulation models that mimic symptom dynamics. Network approaches naturally explain the limited success of traditional research strategies, which are typically based on the idea that symptoms are manifestations of some common underlying factor, while offering promising methodological alternatives. In addition, these techniques may offer possibilities to guide and evaluate therapeutic interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / classification
  • Mental Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders* / etiology
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Psychopathology / methods*