Biological Perspectives on Psychiatry for the Person

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C. Robert Cloninger
Mahommed T. Abou-Saleh
David A. Mrazek
Hans-Jürgen Möller


The World Psychiatric Association’s Program on Psychiatry for the Person is founded on the World Health Organization’s recognition that health is a state of physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being, rather than merely the absence of disease.  The WHO definition of health indicates a holistic perspective that a human being cannot be reduced to a material body alone.  The whole person is comprised of physical, mental, and spiritual aspects.  What may not be obvious to the casual observer, however, is the fact that each of the three aspects of a person has a distinctive biological basis.  Different biological systems are involved in the regulation of physical processes (e.g., sexuality, digestion, movement), algorithmic mental processes (e.g., emotional expression, language, logical reasoning), and self-aware creativity (e.g., art, science, spirituality). Measures of psychological well-being and ill-being have been shown to be associated with numerous biomarkers, adding to a growing literature indicating that the biological correlates of well-being and ill-being are mostly distinct, rather than opposites extremes of common processes.  Any rigorous understanding of the biological perspective on Psychiatry for the Person must recognize the nature of these distinctive biological processes and their implications for promotion of positive health and for the prevention and treatment of ill health

Article Details

Special Section: Conceptual Bases of Psychiatry for the Person
Author Biography

C. Robert Cloninger, Sansone Family Center for Well-Being at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO,

Prof Cloninger is Wallace and Lucille Renard Professor of Psychiatry, Professor of Psychology and Genetics, and Director of the Sansone Family Center for Well-Being at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He is also Scientific Director of the Anthropedia Institute Dr. Cloninger received his B.A. with High Honors and Special Honors in Philosophy, Psychology, and Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, 1966.  He received his M.D. from Washington University in 1970 and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Umea, Sweden in 1983.  He has published 10 books and more than 400 articles in psychiatry, psychology, and genetics.   His recent books include the Origins of Cooperation and Altruism by Springer, Feeling Good: The Science of Well-Being by Oxford University Press, and Personality and Psychopathology by American Psychiatric Press.  Among his many awards, Dr. Cloninger has received the American Psychiatric Association’s Adolf Meyer Award (1993) and Judd Marmor Award (2009), and lifetime achievement awards from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (2000) and the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics (2003).  He is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the APA, a fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.  The Institute of Scientific Information ranks him among the most highly cited psychiatrists and psychologists in the world. His personality inventories have been used in more than 4000 peer-reviewed publications.