Psychology - Abnormality // Individual
1 Definitions of Abnormality
1.1 Definition 1:
1.1.1 Limitations: Social norms are susceptible to change. For example,,
homosexuality is accepted nowadays but before was listed as under sexual
and gender identity disorders. Szasz claimed that the concept of mental
illness was simply a way to exclude nonconformists from society. Making
judgements on deviance is often related to the context of a behaviour. For
example, wearing a bikini on a beach is acceptable but is not seen normal if
worn to school. There is not a clear line between abnormality and eccentricity.
1.2 Definition 2:
Failure to Function
1.2.1 Limitations: Some 'dysfunctional' behaviour can be adaptive/functional for
the individual. For example, an eating disorder may lead to wanted extra
attention. Failing to function might mean different things in other cultures.
Lower class and non-white paitents are more often diagnosed with mental
disorders - their lifestyles are less traditional and may lead to a judgement
that they are failing to function.
1.3 Definition 3:
1.3.1 Marie Jahoda said that the absence of six signs would mean
abnormality. Self-attitudes: having high self esteem and strong
sense of identity. Personal Growth and self-actualisation:: individual
develops their full capabilities. Integration: being able to cope in
stressful situations. Autonomy: being independent. An accurate
perception of reality. Mastery of the environment: including the
ability to love, adjust to new situations, solve problems.
184.108.40.206 Limitations: How many are lacking before you are abnormal? Who
can achieve all this criteria? It is also unlikely that we can diagnose
mental ability in the same way as we diagnose physical
abnormality. Collectivist cultures may not have the same ideal
mental health criteria, for example, being dependent vs independent
and where individuals strive for the greater good of the community
rather than self-centred goals.
3.1 Approach focuses on behaviour – i.e. the way a person responds to their
environment. This can be internally (experiencing a particular feeling) or
externally (displaying signs of how you’re feeling). Abnormal behaviours are
learned through learning theory. Learning environments may reinforce
problematic behaviours, for example avoidant behaviour lowers anxiety, and
depressive behaviours may elicit help from others. Society also provides deviant
maladaptive models that children identify with and imitate: for example, drug
taking if they judge that doing so will achieve social approval by their friends.
Similarly, people may develop a fear of flying by watching a plane crash on TV.
3.2 Learning Theory: Classical – learning through association. A neutral stimulus is paired with an
unconditioned stimulus, resulting in a new stimulus-response link. The neutral stimulus is now a
conditioned producing a conditioned response. This process applies to emotional learning as well as to
behaviours. For example, it is assumed that a phobia of a spider is due to a bad past experience. Links to
case study Little Albert. Operant – learning through reinforcement. Psychological disorder is produced
when a maladaptive behaviour is rewarded. This means that such behaviours are functional, at least at
the time they were learned. For example, a child may find that they get extra attention if they have
panic attacks, but they might become so frequent they are hard to stop. Social Learning – behaviours
learned by seeing others rewarded or punished. When researchers find that some disorders run in
families (e.g. anxiety disorder) it is hard to separate social learning and genetics.
4 Cognitive Approach
4.1 Cognitive model assumes that thinking, expectations and
attitudes direct behaviour. Mental illness is therefore the
result of irrational thinking. Ellis refers to this as the ABC
model. A refers to the Activating Event, for example a spider
B is the belief which may be irrational (e.g. 'I'm going to die')
or rational (e.g. 'it's harmless'). C is the consequence - rational
beliefs lead to a healthy emotion (e.g. indifferent) and a
irrational belief leads to an unhealthy emotion (e.g. fear). The
cognitive model portreys the individual as being the cause of
the problem as they control their own thoughts.
4.1.1 Limitations: Ethical issues of this approach is that it
blames the individual. Blames the individual rather
than the situation. Do beliefs and faulty thinking come
before mental disorder, or does mental disorder create
faulty thinking? Irrational thinking may not be
irrational. Alloy and Abrahmson said that depressive
realists see the world for what it really is and normal
people seeing the world through rose tinted glasses.
5 Psychodynamic Approach
5.1 Freud believed that the origins of mental disorder lie in the unresolved
conflicts of childhood which are unconscious. Conflicts between the ID, ego
and superego create anxiety. Ego defences can be the cause of mental
disorders if they are overused. In childhood, the ego has not developed
enough to deal with traumas and therefore the memories are repressed.
Later in life, if the problem happens again, this makes them re-experience it
and this can lead to depression. Ego defences exert pressure through
unconsciously motivated behaviour. This underlying problem cannot be
controlled until brought back into conscious awareness.
5.2 Limitations: Abstract concepts such as the ID, ego and superego are
difficult to define and research. Because actions motivated by them
operate at an unconscious level, there is no way to know for certain
that they are occurring. Another criticism is that Freud’s theory has
cultural bias of Victorian society. His work is criticised for being sexist
as during Victorian times women were not seen as equals. Freud’s
work was not applicable for women. However, the reduced emphasis on
the oedipal complex, and other changes have made this explanation
apply to women too. Freud’s theory is difficult to prove or disprove,
therefore a lack of research evidence. Evidence that would contradict
this could be argued that this is because of defence mechanisms.
6.1 Dream analysis: Freud believed that during dreams the normal barriers to unconscious material were
lifted and the symbolic imagery of dreams was a reflection of this. Therefore by analysing the content
of dreams, the therapist might be able to identify significant conflicts that have been repressed.
According to Freud, dreams were basically wish fulfilment from the ID that were too threatening to be
consciously acknowledged. Firstly, dreams have obvious content that the client can recall which is called
the manifest content. Beneath that lies the actual content meaning of the dream that can only be
recalled through the therapist’s interpretation. This is latent content. The client can work through the
issues with the therapist by identifying and hopefully resolving the source of the current anxieties.
6.2 Free association: The client is encouraged to express anything that comes
into their mind. Each situation that they mention may lead to other ideas,
thoughts and memories perhaps extending back to childhood. The client
must not censor the material at all, and this may lower the ego defences.
Therapists draw conclusions about the possible causes of the problems.
7.1 Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT). REBT was developed by
Albert Ellis, which is based on the idea that many problems are the result of irrational thinking. REBT
helps the client understand their thoughts are irrational and the consequences of thinking that way. It
then helps them substitute more effective problem solving methods. The ABC model – A being the
activating event, B being the belief and C being the consequence – targets the belief so that if they can
change the irrational belief to a rational one, they will get a healthy emotion instead. During therapy, the
client is encouraged to dispute these beliefs.
7.1.1 Logical disputing – self-defeating beliefs do not
follow logically from the information available (e.g.
“does this thinking make sense?”) Empirical disputing
– self-defeating beliefs may not be consistent with
reality (e.g. “where is the proof that this belief is
accurate?”) Pragmatic disputing – emphasises the
lack of usefulness of self-defeating beliefs (e.g. “how
is this likely to help me?”)
7.1.2 An extension to Ellis’ ABC model, successful
REBT therapy adds DEF. D stands for
disputing – the therapist has helped the client
to challenge the irrational thought to a
rational one that is more (E)ffective attitude
to life and with a new set of (F)eelings which
are more positive.
8.1 Drugs: Antipsychotic drugs - used to combat symptoms of schizophrenia. These drugs block the action of neurotransmitter
Dopamine by binding to the dopamine receptors. Such as chlorpromazine. Antidepressant drugs - Depression is thought to be
because of low levels of serotonin. Antidepressants work by reducing the rate of re-absorption or blocking the enzyme that
breaks down the neurotransmitters. Typical antidepressants are SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) which works
by blocking the mechanism that re-absorbs serotonin Thus, more serotonin is left in the synapse.