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DOI: 10.1007/s11920-020-1127-8; PMCID: PMC6995447


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Although treatment algorithms and parameters for best practice are readily available for all major syndromes of psychiatric impairment, the occurrence of psychiatric syndromes in individuals with intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) invokes serious contextual challenges for interpretation of symptoms, diagnosis, and optimization of treatment, both for clinicians and for the service sectors in which care and support of individuals with IDD are delivered. Recognizing that there exist very few definitive resources for best practice under the circumstance of this form of "dual diagnosis," the Missouri Department of Mental Health convened an expert panel to conduct a focused review and synthesis of the relevant scientific literature from which to develop guidance in the form of decision support to clinicians. This article summarizes the findings for three of the most common and impairing clusters of psychiatric symptoms that co-occur with IDD-aggression, depression, and addictions.

RECENT FINDINGS: Individuals with IDD are at high risk for the development of psychiatric symptoms (PS), which often manifest uniquely in IDD and for which evidence for effective intervention is steadily accruing. Interventions that are commonly implemented in the IDD service sector (e.g., functional communication training and positive behavioral support planning) are capable of mitigating severe behavioral impairment, yet rarely invoked when dual diagnosis patients are seen in the psychiatric service sector. Conversely, state-of-the-art interventions for traumatic stress, pharmacotherapy, and psychotherapy have proven capable of improving behavioral impairments in IDD but are typically restricted to the psychiatric service sector, where there exist significant barriers to access for patients with IDD, including limitations imposed by diagnostic eligibility and practitioner experience. Bridging these gaps in knowledge and clinical capacity across the respective IDD and PS service sectors should be of very high priority in strategizing the care and support of IDD patients with serious co-occurring psychiatric conditions.

Journal Title

Current psychiatry reports





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MeSH Keywords

Developmental Disabilities; Humans; Intellectual Disability; Mental Disorders


Comorbidity; Diagnosis; Psychiatric services; Treatment


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