Biological approach to abnormality

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  • Created by: sruthy95
  • Created on: 16-02-14 16:28
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  • Biological approach to abnormality
    • Assumption
      • Abnormality is caused by physical processes.
      • Psychological disorders are illnesses or diseases affecting the nervous system.
      • Abnormal thinking and emotion are caused by biological dysfunctions.
    • Therapies
      • ECT- Electroconvulsive therapy is when the patient is relaxed with a sedative. Electrodes are attached to the temple. A voltage of 70-130 volts is  passed through the brain for half a second. this produces a convulsion for 1 minute. Patient awakes and remembers nothing. 2-3 session a week for 3-4 weeks is required.
        • -/+ Can be useful for suppressing depressive symptoms for up to one year. It is not known how it works.
        • - Can cause temporary memory loss and emotional side effects such as withdrawal and flatness.
        • - Does not deal with the problem and symptoms return usually after a year.
        • -/+ Can cause death (4 in 100 000)
        • - Patients can not give informed consent as they are in a distressed and confused state, given only when all other treatment have failed.
      • Drug therapy: - Antidepressants: i.e. Prozac, act by stopping the reuptake of the serotonin in the synaptic gap. -Antipsychotic drugs: block the dopamine receptors (dopamine is a neurotransmitter which is raised in schizophrenia).
        • -/+ Can be very effective and allow people to lead a normal life but they don't cure the disorder they only control they symptoms so when the drugs are stopped the symptoms reappear.
        • - They do not work for all patients
        • - They can have serious side-effects i.e. antidepressants can be addictive.
        • - They target the biological changes but do not change life circumstances, daily stressors  may also trigger mental disorders such as depression.
        • + They are fairly cheap treatments and act fairly quickly; they can be used to control symptoms enough to allow the patient to start psychological therapies such as CBT or psychoanalysis.
    • Evaluation of this approach
      • + Uses scientific techniques to find evidence such as objective measurements like brain scans and blood tests so evidence is valid.
      • -Schizophrenia shows a genetic pattern of inheritance but environmental factors are also involved as the concordance in MZ twins is only 46% (should be 100% if it was only genetic).
      • - The changes observed in schizophrenics (high levels of dopamine/ enlarged) could be the effect rather than the cause of the disorder as the brain is a plastic organ which changes depending o the way we use it.
      • - This argument is REDUCTIONIST as it does not take into account the early childhood experience which according tot the psychodynamic approach could cause unconscious conflicts between the Id, the ego and the superego which could cause abnormal behaviour in later life.
      • +/- The therapies proposed by this approach (drugs and ECT) are effective but they are not a cure, they only control the symptoms.
      • +/- it does not blame the patient but it disempowers them as they take a passive role in the treatment i.e. just take the medication prescribed by the professionals.
    • Causes of abnormality
      • Brain damage- Alzheimer's disease is caused by degeneration of neurones.
      • Imbalances of neurochemicals- low levels of serotonin (neurotransmitter is associated with depression).
        • Dopamine hypothesis also supports this as high levels of  dopamine is associated with schizophrenia whereas low levels of dopamine is associated with parkinsons disease.
      • Infections- Clive Wearing suffered from herpes symplex virus which damaged his hippocampus as a result he could not form any new memory
      • Genetics- could code for abnormality in the structure and functioning of the brain i.e. schizophrenia shows a genetic pattern of inheritance.


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