Personalized Feedback on Symptom Dynamics of Psychopathology: A Proof-of-Principle Study


  • Renske Kroeze University of Amsterdam and University of Groningen
  • Date C. van der Veen University of Groningen
  • Michelle N. Servaas University of Groningen
  • Jojanneke A. Bastiaansen University of Groningen
  • Richard C. Oude Voshaar University of Groningen
  • Denny Borsboom University of Amsterdam
  • Henricus G. Ruhe University of Groningen
  • Robert A. Schoevers University of Groningen
  • Harriëtte Riese University of Groningen



Anxious Depression, Ecological Momentary Assessment, Elderly, Network Analysis, Personalized Medicine, Psychopathology


Background and Objectives. In the proposed symptom network approach to psychopathology, psychiatric disorders are assumed to result from the (causal) interplay between symptoms. By implementing this approach we explored whether individual feedback on symptom dynamics complements current categorical classification and treatment. The aim of this proof-of-principle case-study was to explore the feasibility, acceptability and usability of this transdiagnostic approach.

Methods. A female patient, aged 67, suffering from treatment resistant anxious and depressive symptoms was treated in our tertiary outpatient clinic for old age psychiatry. She participated in ecological momentary assessments (EMA), which in-volved intensive repeated measurements of mood and context-related items during two weeks. Visualizations of the interplay between the items were provided by network graphs and were discussed with the patient.

Results. Network graphs were discussed with the patient. For example, it was hypothesized and discussed with the patient that feeling relaxed increased physical activity, causing physical discomfort in the following hours. Physical discomfort caused stress as its symptoms resembled her feared somatic anxiety symptoms. This increased the patient’s insight that stress, expressed as somatic symptoms, played a central role in her panic disorder. This started a dialogue on how to cope with stress caused by somatic (anxiety) symptoms and provided a rationale for the patient to start an interoceptive exposure intervention she had repeatedly refused before.

Limitations. The observed symptom dynamics may not be generalizable to any other random two weeks.

Conclusions. Personalized diagnosis of psychopathology incorporating complex symptom dynamics is feasible and a promising addition to current categorical diagnostic systems and could guide intervention selection. This merits further exploration.