Psychiatric genetics and the structure of psychopathology

Jordan W. Smoller, Ole A. Andreassen, Howard J. Edenberg, Stephen V. Faraone, Stephen J. Glatt, Kenneth S. Kendler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

63 Scopus citations


For over a century, psychiatric disorders have been defined by expert opinion and clinical observation. The modern DSM has relied on a consensus of experts to define categorical syndromes based on clusters of symptoms and signs, and, to some extent, external validators, such as longitudinal course and response to treatment. In the absence of an established etiology, psychiatry has struggled to validate these descriptive syndromes, and to define the boundaries between disorders and between normal and pathologic variation. Recent advances in genomic research, coupled with large-scale collaborative efforts like the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, have identified hundreds of common and rare genetic variations that contribute to a range of neuropsychiatric disorders. At the same time, they have begun to address deeper questions about the structure and classification of mental disorders: To what extent do genetic findings support or challenge our clinical nosology? Are there genetic boundaries between psychiatric and neurologic illness? Do the data support a boundary between disorder and normal variation? Is it possible to envision a nosology based on genetically informed disease mechanisms? This review provides an overview of conceptual issues and genetic findings that bear on the relationships among and boundaries between psychiatric disorders and other conditions. We highlight implications for the evolving classification of psychopathology and the challenges for clinical translation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-420
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Psychiatric genetics and the structure of psychopathology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Smoller, J. W., Andreassen, O. A., Edenberg, H. J., Faraone, S. V., Glatt, S. J., & Kendler, K. S. (2019). Psychiatric genetics and the structure of psychopathology. Molecular Psychiatry, 24(3), 409-420.