Researcher Ramblings: The Joy of Dimensionality

Mental health has come a long, long way in a very short time. The way we diagnose and judge is constantly changing. For instance, it wasn’t long ago that diagnosis was made by checking the shape of the skull. And it was also not too long ago that the only way to look inside the brain was to wait for the person to die and then cut his head open.

The way mental health is growing means that things we now know as normal, like the way we classify disorders, will soon change. Lets speak of one possible direction of change today. Looking at traits on dimensions to then classify traits and not disorders, seems like a popular direction to go.
What does this mean? That some day, people won’t just get a label for having ADHD, but rather a score on a dimension for various traits such as hyperactivity, inattention, motor restlessness, and maybe even far reaching traits such as susceptibility to accidents or drug use.
If we do reach this stage for all disorders, I would think of this as a beautiful way of viewing things. Not just as normal vs abnormal or us vs them, but rather a more fluid way of understanding humanity. One where everyone has every trait, in different proportions.
Imagine then a conversation between parents going-
Parent 1 – my child scored really high on working memory, spatial reasoning and hyperactivity (hyperactivity doesn’t sound too bad in this case, huh?)
Parent 2 – oh wow! My child had his highest scores on deductive logic, lowest on motoric restlessness and openness to experience (reduced openness doesn’t seem to negative here either…?)
I would love to imagine a situation where this form of evaluation seeps into our everyday thought and language. People wouldn’t just be awesome, mean, horrible or good. Reducing humans to a few words would hopefully, some day, be a redundant way of speaking.
Maybe new traits would come up…a back to baseline trait i.e. how soon after getting emotionally sad/angry/upset can one return to a baseline of feeling ok again. Or a snappiness measure for how politely or snappy-ly one reacts to unfavourable situations. Or a stop-and-smell-the-roses trait for measuring mindfulness. I could go on and on… 🙂
Basically, the world is constantly changing in the way it judges others. I’d like to believe though, that we are headed to a more holistic, inclusive, and frankly more realistic form of judgement and in turn evaluation of mental health.

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