Compulsion and Addiction – Day 5

“The psychiatric category of addiction has recently been broadened to include new [behaviours]. This has prompted critical discussion about the value of a concept that covers so many different substances and activities. Many of the debates surrounding the notion of addiction stem from different views concerning what kind of a thing addiction fundamentally is. In this essay, we put forward an account that conceptualizes different addictions as sharing a cluster of relevant properties (the syndrome) that is supported by a matrix of causal mechanisms. According to this “addiction-as-a-kind” hypothesis, several different kinds of substance and [behavioural] addictions can be thought of as instantiations of the same thing – addiction. We show how a clearly articulated account of addiction can facilitate empirical research and the theoretical integration of different perspectives on addiction. The causal matrix approach provides a promising alternative to existing accounts of the nature of psychiatric disorders, the traditional disease model, and its competitors. It is a positive addition to discussions about diagnostic criteria…and sheds light on how psychiatric classification may be integrated with research done in other scientific fields. We argue that it also provides a plausible approach to understanding comorbidity. “

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