Abnormality Definitions

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Deviation From Social Norms

We live in a society that expects us to bide by certain rules and customs, the ‘social norms’.  The rules can be explicit, i.e. the laws, or implicit, i.e. unspoken expectations of behaviour. Any deviation away from the social norms assumes that abnormality is behaving in an ‘anti-social' way.

+  On a practical level it is an easy and useful way to identify mental problems.
+ It considers the effect of someone’s behaviour on other people
-Eccentric or abnormal?
-Criminal or abnormal? -Role of context
-Cultural differences -Changes with time
-A societies behaviour may not necessarily be the ‘right’ behaviour e.g. Nazi Germany
-Risk of abuse to control society

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Failure to Function Adequately (FFA)

This definition of abnormality focuses on the everyday behaviour of the person. When someone deviates from this normal pattern of behaviour then they are failing to function adequately

Rosenhan and Seligman (1989)
Characteristics of FFA
Their behaviour causes distress to others. 
Their behaviour is unpredictable and sometimes uncontrolled.
Their behaviour is irrational and hard to understand. 
The behaviour interferes with a person’s routine.
They report that they are suffering .
Failing to hold down a job may be due to economic conditions or prejudice and not a mental disordee
Some people with disorders can function adequately at least most of the time
Ideas relating to ‘functioning adequately’ are culturally relative.  
You cannot use the standard of one culture to judge or measure the behaviour of another.
Unusual behaviour may be a coping strategy for those who are experiencing a difficult period in their lives 

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Deviation From Mental Health

Marie Jahoda (1958) .Rather than defining what is abnormal, we define what is normal/ideal and anything that deviates from this is regarded as abnormal.This requires us to decide on the characteristics we consider necessary to mental health.
Autonomy – self reliant, freedom to make own choices. Self-actualisation – striving to fulfil our potential. Perception of reality – realistic views of ourselves and our world. Integration – able to tolerate anxiety and stress. Environmental mastery – adaptable and competent Self-attitude – positive self reflection 
+It’s a positive approach because it starts by defining mental health as a baseline for comparison.
X    Many of the criteria are culture bound because some Eastern cultures do not recognise autonomy and self actualisation.
X    Looking at the 6 ideal states, very few people would match all the criteria, so by this definition the majority of people would be considered abnormal.
X  It is far easier to judge a physical illness because it can be measured objectively or the symptoms are visible; with mental disorders, it is not always so easy to judge the illness. 

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