Biological and Psychological Approaches to Psychopathology

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Biological and psychological approaches to
Key terms:
Psychopathology ­ The scientific study of psychological disorders, their nature
and their causes
Biological approach ­ The view that behaviour is explained in terms of
biological mechanisms
Behavioural approach ­ (Applied from learning theory) All behaviour is
learned through experience as a result of classical and operant conditioning and
social learning
Cognitive approach ­ The key influence on behaviour is how the individual
thinks about a situation
Psychodynamic approach ­ Literally an approach that explains the dynamics of
behaviour ­ what motivates yourself, it is suggested that the motivators are
unconscious forces and life experiences
The biological approach to psychopathology:
Key terms:
Genes ­ A unit of inheritance that forms part of a chromosome. Genes control
the characteristic (traits) that we inherit
Genetic inheritance ­ The reception of genetically coded traits through
transmission from parent to offspring
Concordance rates ­ A measure of the similarity between two individuals on a
given trait, expressed usually as a percentage
Diathesis-stress model
In the case of certain disorders individuals inherit a vulnerability
(diathesis) to that disorder
The disorder only develops if they are then exposed to difficult
environmental conditions (stress)

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The relationship is the greater the underlying vulnerability the
subsequently less stress is needed to trigger the incidence of that
Outline of approach:
Assumes that all mental disorders have a biological basis, relating to
change in the body. The malfunction of biological systems, processes and
mechanisms. Thought to be mental illness caused by some underlying
physical problem
Genetic inheritance - the reception of genetically coded traits through
transmission from parent to offspring.…read more

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This shows that drugs rid the individual of their abnormal
symptoms suggesting that the origin of the symptoms may be
No blame:
The diagnosis of the mental illness implies that the patient is not to
blame and is not responsible for their abnormal behaviour.…read more

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There is not a simple cause and effect relationship between biological
influences and mental disorders
The role of genetic inheritance is not casual, if this were the sole cause
twins would both be mentally ill
It is not clear whether the things that arise from a mental disorder are a
cause of symptoms or just a consequence of them
For example changes in neurochemistry could be the consequence of a
mental disorder rather than the cause.…read more

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Key terms:
Maladaptive behaviour ­ Any behaviour that inhibits an individual's ability to
cope with or adjust to particular situations
Social learning theory ­ The assumption that people learn through indirect as
well as direct rewards by observing the behaviour of models (observational
And then imitating such behaviour if others have been awarded for such
behaviour (vicarious reinforcement)
Outline of approach:
Only behaviour is important:
Focuses solely on behaviour, the observational response someone
makes towards their environment.…read more

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The environments in which behaviours are learned may reinforce
maladaptive behaviours as they could provide desired consequences
For example:
An individual with agoraphobia, not leaving home lowers anxiety levels
An individual with depression, displaying depressive symptoms elicits
help from others, as this is rewarding the symptoms continue
Focus on behaviour:
This overcomes the ethical issue raised by the medical model of labelling
and stigmatising a patient as abnormal.…read more

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Experimenters have successfully used the principles of learning to create
symptoms in participants, suggesting real disorders may develop in the
same way
A limited view:
Behaviourist explanations are criticized as they offer an extremely
limited view of what may cause abnormality.…read more

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The illness returns suggesting the underlying problem is still there casting
a shadow of doubt over the claim that the problem of abnormality is due
to purely maladaptive learning
The cognitive approach to psychopathology:
Key terms:
A-B-C model ­ Refers to the three components of experience that can be used
to judge whether an individual's belief system is distorted
A ­ Activating event
B ­ Belief
C ­ Consequence
Cognitive distortions ­ Dysfunctional thought processing
For example processing information in a way likely to cause…read more

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Research support:
Support for this approaches comes from the success of therapies based
on the cognitive approach
They have been shown to be effective in treatment of a range of
disorders including panic disorders and depression
Research shows that when they compared cognitive therapies (CT) with
antidepressant medication in the treatment of depression CT was no less
effective than ADM and better tolerated by patients.…read more

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It is also possible that faulty thinking is a vulnerability factor for
psychopathology with individuals with maladaptive cognitions being at
greater risk to developing mental disorders
Irrational beliefs may be realistic:
Not all irrational beliefs are irrational
It is suggested that many people with depression actually have a much
more realistic view of the world than non-depressive
This suggests that depressive people may see the world for what it
really is rather than normal people (rose-tinted glasses).…read more


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