Over the last decade, psychiatry on an international scale has focused critical attention upon redefining the theoretical and methodological basis of mental health problems. Classification systems firmly anchored in research evidence have been established. Today, psychiatry and psychology have increasingly turned to the empirical findings offered by biological psychiatry. The extent to which situational, social and cultural processes co-determine the appearance of psychiatric symptoms, as well as the subsequent history, continues to merit our attention. There is a growing awareness that life style and stress significantly influence health and disease; diagnosis of itself is insufficient for treatment (Klerman, 1984), and clinical evaluations are incomplete without psychosocial assessments (Engel, 1977; Bronfenbrenner, 1979). Research that adequately describes the person in context, however, has proved difficult, due in part to the lack of readily available and replicable assessment methods with which to describe the places and social contexts of interest to psychiatry. We have thus paid insufficient attention to the variability and patterning of conscious experience over time and may have overlooked important features of psychopathology, just as the endocrinologist once overlooked meaningful within-day variations in the patterning of hormone release.
This volume, The Experience of Psychopathology, offers some solutions to the problem of sampling environmental or social situations in relation to psychiatrically disordered behavior. The papers that follow report fundamental research into the nature of psychopathology using new time sampling methods, such as the Experience Sampling Method (ESM), and time-budget or diary methods that have been previously established, but under-utilized.