Continuity Hypothesis

The cognitive model of psychopathology emphasizes well-being on a continuum. Various psychopathologi-cal syndromes are viewed as exaggerated and persistent forms of normal emotional responses. Thus, there is "continuity" between the content of normal reactions and the excessive responses seen in psychological disorders. This hypothesis fits an evolutionary perspective, for it suggests that disorders are extreme manifestations of adaptive strategies. In addition, the notion of continuity makes psychological syndromes more understandable, because people in general can identify with the less severe forms of the behaviors. Indeed, extrapolating from observations of psycho-pathology gives information about the more subtle biases common in everyday reactions. For example, the intense fear of negative evaluation in social phobia is an exaggeration of the normal social vulnerability and self-consciousness felt in many social in teractions. Positive bias and positive illusion, noted in many nondepressed individuals, have an extreme expression in the expansiveness and self-aggrandisement of mania.

Cognitive therapy research has identified cognitive risk factors for various disorders. As a psychotherapy, it is biased in its attention to deficits and limited in its generalizability from clinical samples. Thus, conceptualizations of mental health must be tempered with evidence from social, developmental, and cognitive psychology, which investigate normal populations but are often biased in the direction of generalizing from contrived, laboratory situations. Cognitive models of several disorders are presented here to elucidate cognitive risk factors to mental health. These risk factors are considered in the design of interventions to treat and prevent psychological distress. In addition, contributions from other branches of psychology are presented to consider how healthy cognitive functioning can be promoted.

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