Biological Approach to Abnormality - Key Info!

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  • Created by: Lizzie M
  • Created on: 25-05-13 18:58
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A biological psychologist explains abnormal behaviour in terms of abnormal behaviour, so it
explains mental disorder as the consequence of malfunctioning biological systems.
Treatment should involve repairing the `broken' systems, through Somatic processes like:
drugs, ECT and psychosurgery.
Also called a `medical model' as it treats abnormality as a physical condition.
Basic Principles: Abnormality is caused by physical factors!
Genetic Inheritance ­ Abnormalities in brain anatomy or chemistry sometimes due to this. One way
of investigating is looking at identical twin, when one twin has a disorder the other has it as well,
providing us with concordance rates. Low concordance rates for some disorders
(e.g. phobias) and high rates for others (e.g. schizophrenia).
Genes ­ Tell body how to function and determine levels of hormones and
neurotransmitters in the brain. High levels of serotonin = anxiety, low levels =
depression. Genes also determine brain structure, research has shown
schizophrenics have enlarged ventricles.
Infection ­ Some disorders may be related to exposure to certain viruses in
utero. TORREY found that many mothers of schizophrenics had had a particular
strain of influenza when pregnant, which is then activated during puberty.
Did lead to more humane treatment of patients (used to be blamed on demons etc.)
however critics have said this model is inhumane e.g. SZASZ argued mental illness did not
have physical basis, and said that the concept of mental illness was invented as a
means of control.

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Cause and effect? Evidence available does not support a cause and effect link e.g.
schizophrenia Is often linked to an excess of dopamine, however some show schizophrenics
have lower levels of this.
Inconclusive Evidence ­ There is no evidence mental disorders are purely caused by
genetic inheritance ­ concordance rates are never 100%. However it is likely that in some
disorders people inherit a vulnerability to it and it is then activated by stress. This is known
as the DIATHESIS ­ STRESS MODEL.…read more

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Benzodiazepines (BZs) are most commonly used to treat anxiety and stress, which
slow down the central nervous system's activity.
· GABA is the body's natural anti-anxiety neurotransmitter, which has a quietening
effect on the brain's neurones. It does this by reacting with GABA receptors on
neurones, when it does this it opens a channel in the neurone, increasing the flow of
chloride ions. These make it harder for the neurone to be stimulated, slowing down
its activity.…read more

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ECT ­ Electro Convulsive Therapy
· Typically used in severely depressed patients when drugs and psychotherapy hasn't worked.
· Often used when there's a high suicide risk as often has quicker results than drugs.
· National Institute for Clinical Excellence said it should only be used when all other options
failed as they consider it to be potentially life threatening.…read more

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ABRAMS said we are not close to finding out why it works, however most agree that it changes
how the brain works. ECT alters way neurotransmitters act.…read more


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