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Defining abnormality
What is abnormal psychology? The distinction between 'normal' and
'abnormal' behaviour is not clearcut.
Psychologists have tried to define abnormality in several different ways.
Limitations of definitions of abnormality
All four definitions in the table above have drawbacks as adequate
definitions of abnormality.
Criticisms of these definitions are:
Statistical Infrequency: Does not account for social acceptability or type
of behaviour. For example, very high intelligence is abnormal because it is
rare. Also, eccentric behaviour that is rare but acceptable is also abnormal.
Deviation from Social Norms: Social norms vary from one society to
another and standards change. For example, in our society, it used to be
considered far more abnormal to be an unmarried mother than it is now.
Failure to Function Adequately: Apart from social dysfunction, this
also includes being in a disabling state of distress. Problems include the
fact that some mental disorders do not cause distress and that sometimes
it is normal to be distressed. Withdrawal from society may be mental
disorder, but not necessarily.
Deviation from Ideal Mental Health: The standards for ideal mental
health are generally difficult to measure and so demanding that most
people fail to meet them anyway!
Cultural relativism
Cultural relativism: Some disorders are specific to some cultures, or
found in some populations more than others. It is difficult to say whether
the disorders are really less common amongst some people, possibly for
genetic reasons, or whether there are differences in diagnosis.
For example: British AfricanCaribbean people are far more likely to be
diagnosed with schizophrenia than other members of the population, the
reasons could be genetic, to do with social conditions and stress, or bias
and prejudice in the medical system.
Biological and psychological models of abnormality

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Different Models: assumptions and treatments
Model Assumptions on Causes Treatments
Physical causes, (genetics,
Biological (medical) Somatic drugs
Unresolved emotional Talking to bring out and
conflicts in early life, now work through
repressed. unconscious conflicts.…read more

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So, what if you are not in a situation in which it's OK to suddenly
get up and run a fourminute mile round the block?
Well, that's when various unpleasant effects may set in, such as throbbing
headaches, irritability, tense neck and shoulders, dried up mouth and
butterflies in the stomach. Sound familiar? Most people experience this sort
of stress sometimes.…read more

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All the stress hormones circulating in the bloodstream and the neural
effects of the sympathetic nervous system combine to create the
'fightorflight' response.
The hypothalamus plays a key role in the control of the endocrine
system. There is a complex feedback system between the hypothalamus,
sympathetic nervous system, the pituitary gland and the secretions of the
adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands are found on top of your kidneys they secrete
epinephrine (otherwise known as adrenaline) and other 'stress hormones'.…read more

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Stress and illness
Research has shown strong links between prolonged stress and many
disorders, mentally and physically. The immune system is easily affected by
You should be aware that stress might lead to behaviour, such as smoking
or overeating, which increases the risk of serious illness so the link with
the original source of stress is indirect.
The incidence of cancer has been correlated with high stress levels.…read more

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For example, it was found that among 40 male tax accountants, blood
cholesterol and clotting speeds were at dangerous levels in April (The end
of the financial year)!
Perhaps women in this type of work would also show similar signs of stress.
There have not been many studies into women's stress levels, but it is
worth noting that the incidence of stressrelated behaviour such as
smoking is increasingly amongst women.…read more

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Remember: stress is a normal part of life it is only a problem when it
causes longterm disruption or illness. Normal stress levels can energise
and motivate us, directing our behaviour in useful ways.
However, in most modern lifestyles, the pressures on people are immense
and most people find themselves having to find ways of coping with
stressful situations in their everyday lives.…read more

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These methods are appropriate for people in acute stress states or those
who need rapid treatment because they may be vulnerable to heart attack,
stroke or blood pressure problems.
Drug treatments may include the use of antianxiety drugs, such as
benzodiazepines (BZs). Benzodiazepines are also known as 'tranquillizers'
examples are Valium, Librium and Mogadon. These drugs can reduce general
arousal and anxiety levels and also help to treat insomnia. There is a danger
that people may develop dependence on these drugs.…read more

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For example: Kobasa's hardy personality theory has led to the
development of training in 'hardiness'. This is about gaining a sense of
control over a situation.
In this type of training, the person has to identify stressful situations then
analyse them for specific sources of stress they then work out ways of
dealing with those stressors in different ways, seeing them as challenges
rather than problems.…read more

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These courses challenge a person's views of themselves and
others.…read more


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