AQA A AS Psychology Abnormality

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  • Created on: 22-04-13 14:24
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Defining Abnormality
Deviation from social norms:
All societies have their own standards of behaviour and attitudes known as social norms which are expected to be
followed by its members. This definition therefore names anyone deviating from these norms as abnormal.
If a person does not conform to social norms, they may be merely being very individualistic and this is not
really problematic.
Attempts to define abnormality In terms of social norms are obviously influenced by cultural factors as social
norms are defined by the culture. Disorders are defined or diagnosed in different ways in different places by
different groups. This means that a diagnosis may be different for the same person in two cultures. There are
no universal rules for labelling behaviour as abnormal so this definition is unreliable.
Social norms change with time, what is socially acceptable today may not have been 50 years ago e.g.
homosexuality in the past was included under sexual and gender identity disorders. If we define abnormality
in this way we base definitions on current social morals and attitudes, this then allows mental health
professionals to classify those individuals who transgress against social attitudes as mentally ill.
Failure to function adequately:
If a person is depressed it would be maladaptive behaviour but when the depression begins to affect daily life and
the person cannot leave their home or have stable relationships it becomes abnormal behaviour.
Cultural Relativism: definitions of adequate functioning are also related to cultural ideas of how one's life
should be lived. So depending on which society you live in something may be accepted by one society but not
permitted in others. For example homosexuality is accepted within British society but in some parts of Africa
homosexuality is seen as a failure to function adequately. So this definition is unreliable as it depends upon
societies which each have their own social norms.
Some apparently dysfunctional behaviour can actually be adaptive for the individual. For example some
mental illnesses such as eating disorders or depression may lead to extra attention for individual and may
help that person to recover, so `failing to function adequately' is not always something which causes
Deviation from ideal mental health:
Jahoda identified six conditions associated with good mental health:
1) Positive attitudes towards oneself: having self-respect and high self-esteem.
2) Self-actualisation ­ realising your potential and being fulfilled.
3) Resistance to stress.
4) Personal autonomy ­ making your own decisions and being in control.
5) Accurate perception of reality.
6) Adaptations to the environment.
Judged by these six criteria, most of us would be deemed abnormal at a given time, as difficult to achieve all
six behaviours simultaneously. Thus the degree to which any individual can be defined as normal might vary
from day to day.
Categories of behaviours used to judge mental health are cultural bond and should not be used to judge
others of different cultural and sub-cultural groupings. E.g. collectivistic cultures emphasise communal goals
and behaviours and would not see autonomy as being desirable.
Esta Finesilver 2013

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Cognitive Approach to Psychopathology
Cognition precedes emotional and behavioural response, so people react differently depending on internal
Mental disorders are the result of faulty thought processes.
Faulty and irrational thinking prevents the individual from behaving adaptively as they exert influence over
emotions and behaviours thus leading to disorders.
Dysfunctional beliefs are formed in childhood through gaining certain types of schemata.…read more

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Ethical concerns with CBT as it can be seen as being to directive. Therapists can abuse their power of control
over their patients by forcing them into a certain mode of thinking. And clients can become too dependent on
their therapist.
CBT is particularly useful as a treatment, as it can be used not only with patients suffering from mental
disorders, but also with people who have more moderate problems, such as nervousness.…read more

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Each manifest thought, or behaviour hides a hidden motive or intention. Each hidden motive for our
behaviours reflects our instincts and early experiences particularly before the age of five.
Anxiety is caused by conflicts between the id, ego and superego.
Relieved by use of ego defences such as repression (shifting unpleasant thoughts into the unconscious),
projection (blaming someone else for something) and regression (reverting to child-like behaviours when
faced with a difficult situation.)These defences can be the cause of disturbed behaviour if they are overused.…read more

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There is a reason why those memories are repressed ­ ethical issues ­ psychological harm that the patient is
suffering from.
Psychoanalysis may only benefit certain clients ­ the young, attractive, verbal, intelligent and successful ­ and
is more likely to be effective with clients who have a positive attitude towards therapy (self-fulfilling
Behavioural Approach to Psychopathology
All behaviour is a response to stimulus, everything we do is determined by our environment.…read more

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Classical conditioning people learn to associate two stimuli that occur together e.g. Pavlov's Dogs. Can
account for development of phobias, e.g. little albert study when little albert associated the loud noise with
the rat and became fearful due to the noise and the rat being presented together.
A consequence can be reinforcing in two ways: either positively reinforcement or to avoid a negative
outcome (negative reinforcement).…read more

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Holland et al found that if one twin had an eating disorder there was an increased
risk of the other twin also having an eating disorder.
Infections can damage the brain and cause it to malfunction. General Paresis, where a person experiences
delusions and bizarre behaviours, can result from contracting syphilis, which leads to physical deterioration in
brain areas.
The model is based on well-established scientific disciplines such as medicine and biochemistry. It focuses on
physical and physiological features (for both causes and treatments).…read more

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Antidepressant drugs such as Prozac which work by increasing the production of neurotransmitter
- Antianxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines slow the activity of the central nervous system (CNS) reducing
hserotonin activity and thus anxiety and increasing relaxing. And beta blockers act on the autonomic nervous
hsystem to reduce activity in the ANS associated with aniexety ­ drugs reduce heart rate, blood pressure.…read more



Good :) just need to put studies in such as who made the approach up and back up studies 


A really great summary of abnormality for AQA(a) students - thank you Esta!

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