Validity and utility of Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP): III. Emotional dysfunction superspectrum

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32 Scopus citations


The Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) is a quantitative nosological system that addresses shortcomings of traditional mental disorder diagnoses, including arbitrary boundaries between psychopathology and normality, frequent disorder co-occurrence, substantial heterogeneity within disorders, and diagnostic unreliability over time and across clinicians. This paper reviews evidence on the validity and utility of the internalizing and somatoform spectra of HiTOP, which together provide support for an emotional dysfunction superspectrum. These spectra are composed of homogeneous symptom and maladaptive trait dimensions currently subsumed within multiple diagnostic classes, including depressive, anxiety, trauma-related, eating, bipolar, and somatic symptom disorders, as well as sexual dysfunction and aspects of personality disorders. Dimensions falling within the emotional dysfunction superspectrum are broadly linked to individual differences in negative affect/neuroticism. Extensive evidence establishes that dimensions falling within the superspectrum share genetic diatheses, environmental risk factors, cognitive and affective difficulties, neural substrates and biomarkers, childhood temperamental antecedents, and treatment response. The structure of these validators mirrors the quantitative structure of the superspectrum, with some correlates more specific to internalizing or somatoform conditions, and others common to both, thereby underlining the hierarchical structure of the domain. Compared to traditional diagnoses, the internalizing and somatoform spectra demonstrated substantially improved utility: greater reliability, larger explanatory and predictive power, and greater clinical applicability. Validated measures are currently available to implement the HiTOP system in practice, which can make diagnostic classification more useful, both in research and in the clinic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-54
Number of pages29
JournalWorld Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Further information on the HiTOP consortium can be found at R. Kotov and R. Krueger are joint senior authors of this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 World Psychiatric Association

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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