Definitions of Abnormality

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Definitions of Abnormality
Definition 1:
Deviation from Social Norms:
The standards of acceptable behaviour are set by a social group.
Anything that deviates from acceptable behaviour is considered to be
Abnormality is seen as deviation from the implicit rules set by society on
how you `should' behave, anything that violates these rules is considered
Explicit rules ­ rules you are told about
Implicit rules ­ rules that are implied (set by a social group considered
the norm)
Susceptible to abuse:
The main difficulty of the concept of deviation from social norms is that
social norms vary as times change, what is now acceptable may not be
acceptable in the future
If we define abnormality in terms of this we open the door to definitions
based on prevailing social morals and attitudes, this then allows
professionals to classify individuals who stand against society and social
attitudes as mentally ill.
The concept of the definition may just be to exclude non-conformists
from society
This definition makes it relatively easy to class someone as abnormal,
professionals can just use to effectively get rid of individuals who do not
conform to a certain view (eliminating non-conformists)

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Deviation is related to context and degree:
Making judgements on deviance is related to the context of a
behaviour. Wearing a certain outfit in the right situation is considered
normal whereas in the wrong situation is abnormal.
There is not a clear line between abnormal behaviour and what could be
just harmless eccentricity.…read more

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Who judges?
In order to determine if someone is failing to function adequately
somebody needs to decide if they actually are
The patient may be experiencing personal distress, then the patient
themselves then determines that this behaviour is undesirable
On the other hand the individual may be quite content and do not realise
that they are not coping when their behaviour may be clearly
dysfunctional.…read more

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Definition 3:
Deviation from ideal mental health:
Abnormality is seen as deviating from an ideal of positive mental health
Ideal mental health would include:
Self-attitudes ­ high self-esteem, strong sense of identity
Personal growth and self-actualisation ­ the extent the individual
develops their full capabilities
Integration ­ Being able to with stressful situations, resistance to stress
Autonomy ­ Being self-regulating and independent
Accurate perception of reality
Mastery of the environment ­ Interpersonal relations, adjustment to
new situations and solving problems
Who can achieve…read more

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Cultural relativism
Many, if not all of the criteria listed are bound to particular cultures, if
we apply these criteria to other cultures we may find higher incidences
of abnormality
For example the criterion of self-actualisation is relevant to individualist
cultures but not collectivist cultures, where there is more emphasis and
the good of community and society…read more


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