Explaining Abnormality

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The biological approach/Medical model
Key features (assumptions)
This is a physical approach
Behaviour caused by the body's physiological process such as the
nervous system (e.g. brain)
Abnormality is seen as an `illness' (based on the disease model).
Mental illness has a physical or organic cause (e.g. damaged brain
structure or damaged brain functioning).
Mental illness can be diagnosed (e.g. by a doctor or psychiatrist) and
treated medically (e.g. medication, surgery)
This is an approach based on nature not nurture.
Main causes of abnormality:
o Brain damage
o Biochemistry
o Genes
Depression could be caused by low levels of serotonin. Boosting
levels can be done via a drug. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter.
Brain damage could be the cause of OCD according to this model, as
there is evidence that people with less grey matter in the brain than
people without the disorder is the cause.
A disorder like anoxia has the highest probability of happening in
twins if one twin has it. This would support the idea that abnormality
is caused by genes.
Schizophrenia is due to too much dopamine.

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Strengths and weakness of the biological
approach (medical model)
Modern brain scanning techniques have helped to support a link
between abnormal levels of brain chemical (neurotransmitter) and
disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.
Research into genetics such as family and twin studies have
supported the existence of a possible genetic basis to disorders as
schizophrenia and bi polar.
Drug treatment has relatively high success rates for treating
psychological disorders.…read more

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The difference between biological
approaches and psychological approaches
Biological approaches assume that the body is the cause of disorders
and that it can be cured by modifying the body's chemicals or performing
a surgery. It also supports the idea of nature rather than nurture.
The psychological approaches assume that environmental, cognitive,
behavioural factors are the cause of disorders. It also says that it can be
cured by working with a therapist, to working through the problem.…read more

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The psychodynamic approach
Key features (assumptions)
Behaviour is the result of complex (dynamic) interactions between
conscious and unconscious process (e.g. Freud)
The personality (psyche) is made of 3 elements
Abnormality results when there is a state of imbalance in the 3
elements of the psyche usually as the result of early childhood
trauma.…read more

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Another key element in Freud's psychoanalytic theory of normal and
abnormal behaviour is psychosexual development. This consists of the:
o Oral stage ­ This lasts from birth to 18 months. Id
impulses are satisfied by feeding, and so the mouth is the
focus of this stage. Activities are sucking initially, and then
as teeth develop, biting. Fixation at this stage may produce
an adult gaining pleasure from oral gratification through
activities such as smoking, drinking or eating.…read more

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Over reliance on defence mechanisms due to underlying anxiety (e.g.
repression, displacement) which are used to protect the conscious
Fixation on an erogenous zone at a particular stage of psychosexual
development can result in abnormal behaviours.
Unresolved Oedipus or Elektra complex.…read more

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Strengths and weaknesses of the
psychodynamic approach
It is supported by Ainsworth (Pg58) that early childhood influences
adult behaviour
Helped people understand abnormality. This can see seen as the
language used to describe it, is now used in normal everyday
Helped create other psychodynamic models
Over emphasises male sexuality
Didn't study children, but looked at case studies. Case studies could
have been a one time event.…read more

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Behavioural approach
Key features (assumptions)
This is a nurture rather than nature approach.…read more


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