Abnormal Psychology: Main Topics of Concept

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Abnormal psychology is the process of using study cases, experiments, etc. to determine the cause and effect and how to prevent behavior that is considered out of the norm—abnormal behavior. Abnormal psychology has four features. The “four D’s” that make behavior abnormal are deviance, distress, dysfunction, and danger.

Deviance steams from the thought that one’s actions are different and peculiar from actions that are normal. It is immensely important to take culture into account when deciding something is deviant because normally the culture that one grows up in has an effect/ control on their actions. Looking at a persons’ culture and those around could aid in noticing behavior that is not normal and in alignment with others. 

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An example of deviance in real life is a child yelling and screaming with extreme mood changes. The child’s parents and siblings are extremely calm and gentle, yet the child continues to have these actions. This would raise a red flag because it goes against the norm of their household and culture.

Distress refers to the idea of having feelings/symptoms of feelings that impact your ability to have normal thoughts for yourself and others. Distressed feelings can cause extreme sadness, anxiety, etc. These symptoms can worsen and develop into abnormal behavior. For example, a young girl can develop anxiety from constant distress of arguing divorced parents. This anxiety can cloud her judgement creating negative thoughts and reactions with arguments and marriage resulting in abnormal behavior in either instance.

The meaning of dysfunction as it relates to abnormal behavior is basically behavior that hinders carrying out everyday functions. Dysfunction and distress could go hand in hand. Results of dysfunction typically prevent one from doing things such as keeping good hygiene or eating on a regular basis. Not doing those things will definitely be a trigger for abnormality. For instance, a man that is normally social cut off all communication with friends, stopped eating, and sat around the house in filth. These are all red flags of dysfunctional behavior.

Danger simply refers to being a danger “to oneself or others” (Comer, 2015). A result of an individual being a danger to them self or others could include suicide or excitement of danger/risk. Danger could be immensely detrimental to one’s health. An original real-life example of dangerous behavior is a teen encouraging and willfully driving a car with 115 mph speed with excitement. The teenager’s response to this act is “we will all die one day anyway.” This a danger to the teen and those around.

Historians believed that evil spirits caused mental illness. They believed this due to the fact that magic was a norm—a battle between the mind and body. As a way to cease the evil spirits, historians forced it to leave the body i.e. cutting open the skull. Another cause of mental illness was the idea that it came from physical problems that were internal. 

Hippocrates believed that there had to be some type of deformity within one’s brain or an imbalance of bile or fluid. A cure of this was to find a cure for the imbalance such as fixing the diet of the individual. A third cause of mental illness believed by historians is Satan’s influence—religion. Historians believed that the cause of dysfunctional behavior was a result from the devil. A said cure for this was pleading and praying to the evil spirit. This is a very similar to one stated previously. 

Weyer believed that the mind could be as sick as the body at times. Treatment for a “sick mind” was loving treatment with private homes—shrines. The shrines felt as though mental illness patients respond better to respect and love. Lastly, another said cause of mental illness by historians is times of trouble caused by war and sickness. A said cure for this cause was exorcisms. This involved pleading with the devil.

The Biological Model focuses on the thoughts of Phillip Berman. This model emphasized his behavior and emotions to help explain biological processes. The Biological Model simply expresses that biological (organism) discrepancies can result in abnormal behavior. To explain abnormal behavior, this model goes into depth on issues in brain anatomy and chemistry. 

Brain anatomy can relate to abnormal behavior when there are issues. Our brain has many regions that connect to each other—the hippocampus, basal ganglia, amygdala, etc. The example our textbook gives is Huntington’s disease. “This disease has been traced to a loss of cells in the basal ganglia and cortex” (Comer, 2015). When brain chemistry is involved, the transferring of messages is immensely important—impulse. Neurotransmitters release chemicals when messages are transferred. 

They can produce electrical impulses that have the ability to result in abnormal behaviors. “Depression, for example, has been linked to low activity of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine” (Comer, 2015). Three sources of biological abnormalities are genetics, evolution, and viral infections. Genetics involve genes—that every chromosome has. Genes have the ability to give individual’s traits and make them prone for certain illnesses, i.e. heart disease, cancer, and mental disorders.

Being prone to mental disorders could make one very vulnerable to show abnormal behavior. Genes also are a contributor in evolution. The way that an individual reacts in situations and the genes that they have survive because they help one to adapt. Therefore, if a human’s genes make them prone to mental disorders, it will be harder for one to adapt resulting in abnormal behavior. Lastly, viral infections causing abnormal behavior can go back to being an infant. Infections in an infant can get into the brain and remain until a human gets older. This can result in symptoms of mental disorders in adolescent life.

The cognitive model emphasizes the idea of the behaviors, emotions, and interactions. It also focuses on cognition. Cognition refers to mental activity—obtaining, storing, transforming, and applying information. Theorists focus on the way that attitudes and assumptions affect experiences. Another way of how cognition associates with abnormal behavior is illogical thinking. The way that a person thinks often has an outcome. For example, if you go into everything in life accepting defeat and doubt, that will become a norm. Self-defeat is not normal. This can lead to mental disorders—depression. Attitude, assumptions, and expected outcomes all go hand in hand when dealing with cognition resulting in abnormal behaviors.

The biopsychosocial model refers to a combined cause of abnormal behavior. This model believes that it starts at genetics and can go all the way into societal influences. For example, a child is born and is sent to the NICU for a virus, grows up in terrible foster homes, and has negative self-defeating thoughts resulting in depression. This is a combination of multiple causes of abnormal behavior. This example gives a synopsis of the main goal of the biopsychosocial model. This model also promotes diathesis-stress. This is said to be an example of how multiple factors cause this behavior by an individual being pre exposed to a factor such as inheritance of genes then later be affected by other developmental factors.

The classification system used by the American Psychiatric Association can be described as a guide of putting patients into different classifications based on the symptoms and syndromes they have. The classification system that is primarily used in North America is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This system provides over 500 mental disorders in detail along with diagnoses. Also, it includes statistical background information such as age and gender findings. Lastly, the DSM mandates clinicians to give categorical and dimensional information regarding the symptoms the patient has.

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