The Co-Occurrence of Mental Illness and Developmental Disability
Well-conducted, population-based studies tell us that up to 40 percent of people with intellectual disabilities have significant psychiatric or behavioral problems that require some sort of intervention. In addition to increased risks of anxiety, depressive, and psychotic disorders, people with intellectual disabilities also experience problems that are not typically seen in the general population, including social and communicative deficits, self-injury, and repetitive, restrictive behaviors. Researchers, clinicians, and families are increasingly aware of these co-occurrences, and the field now has a host of psychometrically sound measures to assess these problems.
Where we fall short, however, is moving beyond descriptive or epidemiological studies to tackle mechanisms that underpin these problems, as well as evidence-based treatments for them. This paucity of data is especially true for the substantial group of individuals without a known etiology for their intellectual disability. Indeed, relative to this group, our understandings of psychiatric vulnerabilities have leapt forward in such genetic disorders as Down, fragile X, Prader-Willi, Williams, and 22q deletion syndromes.
This year, the 2014 Gatlinburg Conference plenary speakers will help us think more critically and deeply about social, environmental, genetic and neural factors associated with high rates of psychopathology in people with intellectual disabilities. Given high rates of inappropriate polypharmacy in this population, speakers will also address the need for evidence-based treatments, including research on behavioral, psychotropic, cognitive-behavioral, mindfulness and other therapies.
All too often, co-occurring psychiatric and behavioral disorders are to blame for less-than-optimal outcomes in children or adults with intellectual disabilities in their schools, homes and communities. Our 2014 Gatlinburg Conference theme is thus rich with research, practice, and policy implications. As usual, we look forward to your contributions on a broad range of research topics in the intellectual and developmental disabilities field. But the theme committee hopes that we all leave the conference with a new appreciation for the importance of multidisciplinary research on psychiatric disorders in this vulnerable population.
Speaker information coming soon!