Elizabeth Hanford Flanagan PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Research Interests

Stigma; Health disparities; Cultural competence; Diagnosis; Classification; Clinicians' conceptualization of mental illness and diagnostic behavior; Subjective experience of mental illness

Current Projects

Stigma in mental health settings
  • Assessment of stigma in mental health providers, mental health consumers, and community members
  • Experimental test of the anxiety and stigma produced by peer vs. credentialed providers
  • Qualitative analysis of mental health settings and the experience of mental illness
Subjective experience of mental illness
  • Qualitative analysis of the subjective experience of the symptoms of schizophrenia
  • Item-analysis of the SCID-IV psychotic disorders criteria in relationship to people's subjective experience of schizophrenia

Research Summary

My current research interests focus on stigma in mental health settings. I recently received a 3-year K01 award to conduct a multi-method assessment of stigma in mental health settings. The goals of this research are:

  • to empirically test a theoretically-based, comprehensive public health model of stigma in mental health settings using established measures to determine the aspects of stigma that are most important in mental health settings and, using experimental vignettes, to manipulate a variable in this model (i.e., attributions about the causes of mental illness) to observe its effects on other model variables;
  • to use a laboratory-based behavioral paradigm to experimentally test whether peer professionals elicit less anxiety but higher ratings of effectiveness and likability than credentialed professionals, and
  • to use qualitative research methods to understand the social context of mental health settings and the lived experience of consumers and clinicians in mental health settings in order to enhance the understanding of the empirical results from the earlier studies.

Extensive Research Description

Overall, my research program focuses broadly on the classification of mental disorders and people’s perceptions of mental disorders. Past research has used anthropological theory and cognitive psychological methods to uncover the natural classification systems (i.e., taxonomies) of mental disorders that people develop as a result of personal experience with people with mental disorders. This research could help develop a diagnostic manual of mental disorders that more accurately reflects people with mental disorders and is more useful to people who are trying to help them. Also, this research could help improve the social inclusion and decrease stigma against people with mental illness.

Currently, I am also interested in people’s subjective experience of mental illness and the relationship between these subjective experiences and the depiction of disorders in the DSM. I am currently developing a research program to study people’s subjective experience of mental illness with the goal of using this information to improve the validity of DSM criteria.

Other interests include the sociology of science (i.e., how social and political forces affect the scientific process), cross-cultural research (especially as it applies to classification and diagnosis), diagnostic decision-making (especially gender bias in diagnosis), and personality disorders (especially classification and assessment).

Selected Publications

  • Flanagan, E.H., & Davidson, L. (in press). Passing for ‘normal’: Features that affect the community inclusion of people with mental illness. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal.
  • Flanagan E.H., Miller R.M., & Davidson L. (2009). "Unfortunately, we treat the chart": sources of stigma in mental health settings. Psychiatric Quarterly. 80, 55-64.
  • Flanagan, E.H., Keeley, J., & Blashfield, R.K. (2008). An alternative hierarchical organization of the mental disorders of DSM-IV. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 117, 693-698.
  • Flanagan, E.H., & Blashfield, R.K. (2007). Should clinicians’ views of mental illness influence the DSM? Journal of Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology. 14, 285-288.
  • Flanagan, E. H., Davidson, L., & Strauss, J. S. (2007). Issues for DSM-V: Incorporating patients' subjective experiences. American Journal of Psychiatry, 164(3), 391-392.
  • Flanagan, E. H., & Davidson, L. (2007). "Schizophrenics," "Borderlines," and the lingering legacy of "misplaced concreteness": The persistent misconception that the DSM classifies people instead of disorders. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 70(2), 100-112.

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