Revision notes on Abnormality

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Definition: Including deviation from social norms, failure to function adequately, and
deviation from ideal mental health.
Definition 1:Deviation from social norms
It considers behaviour as abnormal if `society' or the majority considers it unacceptable
or undesirable. Deviation refers to deviant behaviour i.e. behaviour that is anti-social or
undesirable by the majority.
In society there are social norms ­ standards of acceptable behaviour that are set by the
social group, and adhered to by those socialised into that group. These standards are
usually in place for good reasons. Certain behaviours are seen as desirable and expected
such as politeness.
Social norms change over time: The difficulty with this definition is that it varies as
times change, behaviour that was considered abnormal may become acceptable and vice
E.g. Homosexuality is now socially acceptable but 50 years ago it was under sexual and
identity disorders (psychological disorder) by WHO.
E.g.2. Having children outside of marriage were once seen as socially unacceptable and
women were locked up in institution because of it.
Deviance is related to context and degree: Making judgements on deviance is often
related to the context of behaviour.
E.g. A person on a beach wearing next to nothing is regarded as normal, whereas the
same outfit in a classroom or at a formal gathering would be regarded as abnormal and
possibility an indication of a mental disorder.
In many cases there is not a clear line between what an abnormal deviation is and what,
simply more, harmless eccentricity is. This means social deviance on its own cannot offer
a complete definition of abnormality.
Cultural Issues: To define abnormality according to social norms are obviously
influenced by cultural factors (cultural relativism) because social norms are define by the
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
different cultures.
E.g. in Japan those who do not submit to the country's strong worth ethic are considered
(Cohen) reports that `Looney bins' (Mental institutions) is used to imprison those
unwilling to conform to society's expectations. On being released the former inmates are
not allowed to work as cooks or bakers and are prevented from holding a drivers licence
What this means in practise is that there are no universal standards or rules for labelling
a behaviour as abnormal.

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Definition 2:Failure to function adequately
From an individual's point of view, abnormality can be judged in terms of not being able
to cope; not being able to carry out day to day tasks (their normal routine) can be
defined as abnormal.
As soon as depression or any other disorder interferes with their lives the person may
label their own behaviour as `abnormal' and might want to seek treatment.…read more

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Who can achieve all this criteria: According to these criteria most of us are abnormal
to some degree, Jahoda presented them as ideal criteria, but how many of them have to
be absent before we would be judged as abnormal
Is mental health the same as physical health: Doctors use symptoms as a sign of
an illness; can mental illness be detected in the same way? It is possible to say that
some mental illnesses can also have physical causes (e.g.…read more

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Psychodynamic Approach
The approach originally proposed by Sigmund Freud in the late nineteenth century and
the first attempt to explain the complexities of human behaviour. Other psychologists
have based their theories around Freud's original.
Freud believed that the origins of mental disorder lie in the unresolved conflicts of
childhood which are unconscious. Mental illnesses are not the outcome of psychological
disorders but of the psychological conflicts.
Personality structures:
In the beginning, at birth, the personality is ruled by the id.…read more

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Usual examples are men with homosexual desires developing very homophobic
Displacement:Venting anger somewhere else
Projections: Blaming someone else
Denial: Refusing to accept that something is true
Unresolved conflicts cause mental disorders:
Conflicts between the id, ego and the superego create anxiety. The ego protects itself
with various defence mechanisms (ego defences). These defences can be the cause of
disturbed behaviour if they are overused.…read more

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The unconscious mind
Although material in the unconscious is hidden it can create distress in the conscious
mind with the person not understanding the cause of this distress.
Abstract concepts: id, ego are difficult t define and research because actions motivated
by them operate primarily at an unconscious level, there is no way to know for certain
that they are occurring. Psychodynamic approach has little empirical support and
psychodynamic theorists have to rely largely on evidence from individual case studies.…read more

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The components of personality, the stages, libido Eros and Thanatos etc are all
hypothetical constructs, impossible to define or to study objectively. They only
manifest themselves through a subjective analysis of a patient.
Ethical implications of the psychodynamic approach
It sees the abnormal behaviour as being an out of control of the individual who Freud
sees as a prisoner of their past and of their unconscious forces. As a result people
should not be blamed for their psychological illness.…read more

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Biological approach to Abnormality
The biological (medical) model assumes that all mental disorder is related to some
change in the body. Mental disorders are like physical disorders i.e. they are illnesses.
Such changes or illnesses may be caused by one of four possible factors: genes
biochemistry , neuroanatomy and v iral infection.…read more

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No psychological disorder has a 100% concordance rate when MZ twins are
compared. There are many cases of one twin having a psychological disorder and
their identical twin showing no symptoms. No psychological disorder is totally
E.g. Gottesman and Shield
reviewed the results of 5 studies of twins, looking for
concordance rates for schizophrenia, found that genetically identical twins there
was a concordance rate of 50%. If schizophrenia was entirely the product of
genetic inheritance you would expect it to be 100%.…read more

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Behavioural Approach to abnormality
The behavioural model concentrates only on behaviours i.e. the responses a person
makes to their environment. Behaviours can be internal or external, but because
external behaviour is easier to observe behaviourists tend to focus their attention on the
role of external events.
Classical conditioning (learning by association)
We learn by associating things together. Examples include Pavlov's dogs and Little
Albert.…read more


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