Abnormality (Psychcopathology) - AQA (A) PSYA2

Includes everything you need to know for the AQA A As level psychology exam: 

Defining and explaining psychological abnormality

• Definitions of abnormality, including deviation from social norms, failure to

function adequately and deviation from ideal mental health, and limitations of

these definitions of psychological abnormality

• The biological approach to psychopathology

• Psychological approaches to psychopathology including the psychodynamic,

behavioural and cognitive approaches

Treating abnormality

 • Biological therapies, including drugs and ECT

• Psychological therapies, including psychoanalysis, systematic de-sensitisation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. 

Please comment/contact me if I've missed anything out or if this was useful for you. 

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  • Created by: Sophie
  • Created on: 27-04-14 10:57
Preview of Abnormality (Psychcopathology) - AQA (A) PSYA2

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Cognitive Approach 06/01/2014 18:45
Definitions of Abnormality
Deviation from Social Norms
Societies have social norms, which are standards of acceptable
behaviour or unspoken rules, e.g. politeness. People who
deviate from these norms are considered antisocial and
therefore abnormal by the rest of the society.
Cultural Relativism ­ what is considered as `abnormal' in one
culture may be deemed acceptable in another as there is no
universal standard for labelling a specific behaviour as
abnormal. E.g. in some cultures it is acceptable to
communicate to the dead whereas here it would be considered
Context and Degree ­ judgement of behaviour depends on the
context and degree of the situation. E.g. wearing a swimming
costume at the beach is acceptable, however wearing one in a
shopping centre is not. Some behaviours are acceptable in one
context but not in another. There isn't a clear distinction
between what is abnormal and what is harmless eccentricity
Failure to Function Adequately
When an individual cannot cope with day to day living they are
considered as abnormal.
Cultural Relativism ­ judging whether someone is `failing to
function adequately' will result in different diagnoses when
applied to people from different cultures as functioning
adequately is culture specific.
Adaptive or Maladaptive ­ some behaviours that appear
abnormal and maladaptive may actually be adaptive for the
individual as it may lead to more attention, which can help
them deal with the stressor that affected them in the first
Deviation from Mental Health
Abnormality is seen as deviating from the ideal mental health.
Jahoda identified 6 characteristics of ideal mental health that
must be present in order for the individual to be considered
normal. The characteristics were ­ being able to cope with
stress, positive self attitude and having an accurate perception
of reality.
Cultural Relativism - The criteria made by Jahoda is specific to
the Western culture and so could lead to a wrong diagnosis and
increased rates of abnormality for people from ethnic
minorities. Some of the characteristics are relevant to
individualist cultures but not to members of collectivist

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Cognitive Approach 06/01/2014 18:45
Who can achieve all these criteria? ­ According to Jahoda's
criteria we are all abnormal to some degree as it is unlikely
that an individual would meet all of those characteristics at one
time.…read more

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Cognitive Approach 06/01/2014 18:45
Developed by Freud who believed mental disorders were the result of
psychological factors such as unresolved conflicts of childhood, which
are in the unconscious.
Personality structure
Conflicts between the id, ego and superego cause anxiety
Id ­ part of the unconscious we are born with. Demands
immediate satisfaction as it's driven by the pleasure principle.
Ego ­ driven by the reality principle. Uses defence mechanisms
to protect itself during conflict.
Superego ­ sense of right and wrong, moral compass, ideal
principle.…read more

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Cognitive Approach 06/01/2014 18:45
Realises the importance of childhood experiences in shaping
adulthood -
Uncover repressed thoughts to help individual understand origins of
their behaviour.
Free association ­ individual is encouraged to say anything
that comes to their mind and must not censor the material at
all. The ego defence mechanisms then may be lowered and so
repressed memories can be accessed. Therapist's role is to
encourage reflection on particular experience.…read more

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Cognitive Approach 06/01/2014 18:45
Mental disorders arise from four main factors:
Biochemistry ­ the availability of certain neurotransmitters is
thought to cause mental illness. E.g. there is shown to be an
increased amount of dopamine in schizophrenics and a
decrease of serotonin in people with depression.
Genes ­ Individuals may have a predisposition to certain
mental disorders as they can be passed on through genes.
Concordance rates measure the extent to which two individuals
are alike in a specific trait.…read more

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Cognitive Approach 06/01/2014 18:45
Anti depressants ­ SSRis ­ increase serotonin to improve
Anti-psychotic drugs ­ tranquillisers, alleviate symptoms like
hallucinations and treat schizophrenia.
only supresses the symptoms and doesn't care for the disorder,
therefore drug treatment is for life.
Side effects ­ memory impairment, aggressiveness etc.
Addictiveness ­ you can become psychologically and physically
dependant on drugs.
Reductionist as the treatment ignores the role of cognition and
environmental influences.…read more

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Cognitive Approach 06/01/2014 18:45
Only our behaviour is important. The approach focuses on observable,
measureable behaviour rather than mental processes.
All behaviour is learnt through conditioning or social learning.
Operant conditioning ­ Learning through reinforcement. E.g.
losing weight can attract praise from others, which then
positively reinforces the individual and may encourage them to
lose more weight, which potentially could lead to an eating
Classical conditioning ­ learning through association.…read more

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Cognitive Approach 06/01/2014 18:45
Involves gradually introducing the patient to their fear through
a hierarchy of scenes, each designed to induce more anxiety to
the patient than the previous one.
The process involves first teaching the patient to relax
completely.…read more

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Cognitive Approach 06/01/2014 18:45
Behaviour is explained in terms of our thoughts and attitude
Abnormality is the result of irrational thoughts as it prevents
the individual from behaving adaptively.
Maladaptive behaviour goes against social norms or interferes
with day-to-day life, individual becomes abnormal.
In Ellis' ABC model, A is the activating event (e.g. seeing a
man outside the house), which may lead to irrational thoughts,
such as the irrational belief (B) that they are being watched.
This could lead to negative consequences (C).…read more

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Cognitive Approach 06/01/2014 18:45
irrational thoughts even if REBT attempts to rationalise these
thoughts.…read more


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