Everything you need to know about abnormality for AS psychology

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Definitions of Abnormality
Abnormality is extremely difficult to define because abnormal behaviour because
normal behaviour has changed over the years and changes throughout cultures, which
means that what is abnormal also changes.
There are 3 definitions of Abnormality...
Deviation from Social Norms ­ This is when someone is deviant and goes against
what is normal and expected in society. For example if you talked to yourself in public
people may think you were behaving abnormally. This behaviour may be vivid,
unpredictable and cause observer discomfort.
Strengths ­
This definition does explain cultural ideas about abnormality
Weaknesses ­
Cultural Relativism ­ this definition is culturally specific as what is normal in
one culture, may not be in another culture. Therefore it may lead to misdiagnosis
for people from different ethnic backgrounds.
Subjective ­ norms change over time and cultures, therefore it's difficult to
define what is the norm.
Context ­ you wouldn't be considered abnormal if you were naked on a nudist
beach, however, if you walked down the street naked this would be considered
abnormal. You must look at the behaviour and where it had happened.
Szasz ­ powerful groups establish norms and decide who or what is abnormal.
So this definition can be used for social control e.g. in Japan some people have
been threatened to be detained if they don't work.
Deviation from Ideal Mental Health ­ Jahoda ­ developed 6 criteria for mental
wellbeing. She argued if you don't show these criteria than you are abnormal and
mentally ill.
Positive attitudes towards yourself such as self respect and self confidence
Selfactualisation ­ knowing your own potential
Resistance to Stress ­ ability to deal with stress without breaking down
Personal autonomy ­ independence
Accurate perception of reality ­ not to positive or negative
Adapting to the environment ­ coping with change

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Strengths ­
This is the only definition which focuses on positive rather than negative aspects.
Weaknesses ­
It's impossible to meet all these criteria and it's unclear how many someone has
to meet before they're abnormal.
Everyone has bad days where they don't meet the criteria, so most people would
be seen as abnormal at some point.
Cultural Relativism ­ This definition is based on western and individualistic
ideals.…read more

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The Biological Approach to Abnormality
This approach believes that abnormality is the result of malfunctioning systems and
treatments should repair this e.g. drugs. It's the most widely accepted approach
because it treats mental illness as a physical condition.
Some biological causes for abnormality include...
Genes ­ genes determine the levels of hormones and tell the body how to function.
Concordance rates between twins show that if one twin is schizophrenic there is a
50% chance the other one will be too.…read more

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Antipsychotics ­ block the action of dopamine, by binding to but not stimulating
dopamine receptors.
Anti­anxiety Drugs ­ Betablockers ­ reduce the activity of adrenaline and
noradrenalin in the body's response to stress making the person feel calmer.
Antidepressant Drugs ­ increase serotonin.
Strengths ­
Drugs are extremely easy to use, they are quick, cheap and can administered by
the patient themselves.
They are extremely effective. Kahn ­ found that drugs worked a lot better than a
placebo.…read more

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The Behavioural Approach to Abnormality
Behaviourists argue that all behaviour is learnt. They believe there is no need to search
the mind and analyse feelings. Treatments involve learning new behaviours through
conditioning or unlearning maladaptive behaviour.
Behaviour is learnt in 3 ways...
Classical Conditioning (learning by association) ­ If we come across things
that occur together, we can associate them to learn a new response. This
conditioning can be used to understand phobias specifically.…read more

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Treatments of Abnormality ­ Behavioural Approach
Treatments involve learning new behaviours or unlearning maladaptive behaviours. This
approach uses systematic desensitization to get rid of the fear response and replace
it with relaxation by systematically making the person immune to their fear gradually. It's
called counter conditioning.…read more

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The Cognitive Approach to Abnormality
The cognitive approach states that mental disorders are the fault of faulty and irrational
thinking. Therapies try to change how people think about themselves and see the world.
The focus isn't the problem it's self but how the person thinks about the problem.
Ellis ­ developed the ABC model to try and explain this.…read more

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Treatments of Abnormality ­ Cognitive Approach
Cognitive behavioural therapies such as REBT (rational emotive behaviour therapy) are
based on the idea that many problems are the result of irrational thinking.
Ellis ­ developed REBT. It aims to replace irrational thoughts with rational ones and
involves several stages.
A good relationship between the client and the therapist is developed, gaining
trust and respect
Identify negative thoughts ­ client is encouraged to keep a diary where they
record all their negative thoughts.…read more

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The Psychodynamic Approach to Abnormality
The psychodynamic approach to abnormality sees abnormal behaviour as being
caused by underlying psychological forces that the individual is unaware of such a
traumatic childhood experiences or conflict between the ID and superego. This
approach was created by Freud.
A well adjusted person develops a strong ego that allows the ID and superego
expression at appropriate times. If conflict between ht e ID and superego is not
managed problems occur.…read more

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Dream Analysis
The therapist then interprets this behaviour and explains possible causes for the
problem. The patient and therapist then go over the issues and try and understand the
cause together.
Strengths ­
80% of the 10,000 patients he reviewed found it was an effective treatment
Found it was more effective in the long term
Deals with causes of illness, not just symptoms
Weaknesses ­
It's the longest of all the treatments and finding unresolved conflicts can take
years.…read more


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