Biological Approach to Psychopathology

The strenghts and weaknesses of the biological approach to psycholpathology.


Biological Approach to Psychopathology


  • Physiological Evidence: the use of brain scans and other modern techniques has identified biological aspects of many psychological disorders. Depression seems to be associated with low levels of brain serotonin, whilst schizophrenia has been linked to over-activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine
  • Success of its treatment: the biological approach has contributed greatly to the formation of effective treatments, like drug therapies, Example, SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) that reduce the effect of depression, these work by increasing the levels of serotonin. if these are effective then it lends support to the idea of psychological disorders having a biological cause.


  • the biological approach is a reductionist: it tries to explain psychological disorders by breaking them down to the most basic level, example, doesn't take into account any environmental influences, we know that depression is linked to low levels of serotonin but it can also be due to environmental stresses.
  • no psychological disorder is purely genetic: although a genetic basis has been found for some psychological disorders concordance rates are never 100%. Gottesman et al found a concordance rate for identical twins of 50% - if it was purely genetic it would be 100%. it is likely that in the case of certain disorders, individuals inherit a possibility of developing a disorder, but the disorder only develops if the individual is exposed to a stressful life condition, aka, the diathesis-stress model.


it is not possible to say that abnormality is purely genetic or due to physical factors, other factors need to be taken into consideration, for example, Psychological approaches to Psychopathology.


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