Definitions of Abnormality

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  • Definitions of Abnormality
    • Deviation from Social Norms
      • a social norm is behaviour or a belief that most people within society stick to
      • if someone does not conform to the norms of their society, we are likely to notice their behaviour and be wary of that individual
      • psychologists can use deviation from social norms as a basis for defining someone as abnormal
      • people who have been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder are commonly known as psychopaths - these people deviate from social norms
      • social norms change over time so by focusing on the ways in which an individual chooses to deviate from social norms can lead to severely restricting their freedom of choice
        • e.g. being homosexual
      • social norms are culturally specific. they differ between any 2 groups with a different culture
        • hearing voices is abnormal in the UK but seen as healthy and 'having another friend' in Chennai, India
    • Failure to Function Adequately
      • Rosenham and Seligman propsed 3 signs that a person is not functioning adequately
        • no longer conforms to standard interpersonal rules
        • experiences severe personal distress
        • behaviour becomes irrational or dangerous to themselves or others
      • when someone's behaviour "crosses the line" and they can no longer cope with day-to-day living they are said to be failing to function adequately
      • the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scale is a scale of 1-100 measuring how well someone is functioning
        • the higher the score the better they function
        • the GAF scale takes into account the individual's wellbeing rather than imposing our standards on them
        • people may just be expressing themselves. the GAF scale includes some subjectivity because we are still making judgements about people, often negative ones
    • Statistical Infrequency
      • normal distribution is for any characteristic the majority of scores will cluster around the mean. the further we go above or below this, the fewer people will attain this 'score'
      • just because behaviour is abnormal doesn't mean it needs treatment
        • someone with an IQ of 130+ is statistically infrequent but would not need treatment
      • some disorders, e.g. depression, are statistically very frequent but are still classified as abnormal
        • 1 in 10 women and 1 in 25 men will experience depression at some point in their lives
    • Deviation from Ideal Mental Health
      • when we know what good mental health is we can start to consider what bad mental health might be
      • Jahoda's criterial for good mental health
        • 1. positive attitude towards the self
          • the positive attitude should be at a good level so the individual feels happy with themselves
        • 2. self-actualisation
          • feeling you have become the best you can be
        • 3. autonomy
          • ability to function as an individual and not depend on others
        • 4. resistance to stress
          • able to handle stressful situations competently
        • 5. environmental mastery
          • can adapt to new situations and be at ease at all situations in life
        • 6. accurate perception of reality
          • see the world around you in the same way as everyone else around you
        • this criteria has high temporal validity and still has relevance today
        • cultural relativism - things differ between cultures
          • self-actualisation is promoted in the UK but seen as selfish in China


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