Abnormal Psychology - Models of abnormality

Biological Model
Psychodynamic Model
Behavioural Model
Cognitive Model

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  • Created by: Aliison
  • Created on: 06-06-10 12:09

Biological Model

  • The Brain
    This can be effected in two ways:
    - Brain damage, abnormal behaviour may occur if the structure of the brain is damaged. For example Alzheimer's disease
    - Brain biochemistry, neurotransmitters transmit nerve impulses from one nerve centre to the next. Low levels of serotonin can be linked to depression and excess of dopamine has been linked to schizophrenia.
  • Biochemistry
    Some mental illnesses have been linked to a hormonal imbalace. (eg pre-mentrual syndrome) also people with depression have higher levels of the hormone cortisol (a stress hormone)
  • Genes
    Recent research is looking at genetic links to mental disorders. There has been evidence that there may be a genetic link in bi-polar depressoin and in schizophrenia
    The idea way to test this would be with identical twins who grew up in different environments
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The main treatment in the biological model is drug therapy. This is on the assumption that a chemical imbalance is at the root of the mental disorder

Tranquillizers - for anxiety disorders
Antidepressants - for depression (SRRI's - can cause weight gain, lower sex drive but it is not often people become dependant on them and Prozac"
Major tranquillizers - for psychotic disorders (Schizophrenia)

  • Drugs do not work the same on all individuals and drugs can lead to dependancey (ie valium, diazipan)
  • Drugs only deal with the symptoms of the mental disorder, they do not look at the cause. They support the theroy that biology is a the root of the disorder. However there is difficulty finding which comes first (cause and effect)
  • It is hard to find out if there is a genetic component in mental disorders as family members grow up and live together and therefore experience the same environmental situations and this could cause the disorder.
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AO2's continued

  • A criticism of this model is that it encourages people to become patients and hand over all responsibility for their well being to health professionals and therefore don't feel so responsible for their recovery.
  • This model is reductionist, it is reducing mental illness to one factor - biology. However they may be other factors that contribute to mental disorders eg family problems, relationships etc.
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Psychodynamic model

Freud developed a model that describes the mind like an iceberg - the conscious mind only a small part of the whole mind.

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Psychodynamic model

Freud also described the mind as consisting of 3 componants:

  • The ID - this is the instinctive part of the mind demanding pleasure and is selfish "I want to do this now" etc (the child)
  • the EGO - the rational part of the mind, it deals with the conflict between the ID and the SUPEREGO "You need to do this now, so do that later" (the adult)
  • The SUPEREGO - the part of the mind concerned with moral judgement "I must do this" (the parent)

The ID and the SUPEREGO are in constant conflict and it is up to the EGO to settle these arguments. For example exam the next day, the ID wants to watch a programme on the tv, the super ego wants to revise. Ego says revise now, record the programme.

A mental health problem may develop if the ID or Superego are too dominant. For example over developed ID may lead to anti-social behaviour. Over developed superego the individual may deprive them selves of what they deserve.

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Ego defence mechanisms

When conflict between the ID and the Superego becomes too much and causes anxiety then we may result in defence mechanisms
Examples including:

  • Repression - this prevents unacceptable desires, motivations or emotions from becoming conscious. They become part of your unconscious mind you are not aware of them. You do this without knowing
  • Projection - this is when you accuse someone else of having your own unacceptable faults.
  • Denial - this is when you refuse to believe that events are happening or that you are experiencing certain emotions
  • Sublimation - this is diverting your emotions onto something else. This is socially acceptable. An example of this is exercise.
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  • Freud did not test his theroy scientifically in a laboratory. It could be argued that it isn't possible to test such thing in the lab but this means that we can't say for sure that there is a subconscious mind
  • Freud based his theories on case studies of middle class females from Vienna. Therefore there is gender, class and culture bias. Also he didn't write anything down as it happened, he wrote it all up after
  • Freud used himself in a case study, we could argue that there is researcher bias and lack of objectivity
  • This puts a lot of pressure on parents as it is saying that early childhood, a time when they have little control, effects the individuals mental health
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Behavioural Model

This model focuses on the behaviour of the individual in order to explain psychological problems.

There are 3 ways

Classical conditioning
This is due to a stimulus/repsonse. An event in the environment provides a stimulus and then that results in a psychological response in the indvidual. Eg phobias.

Little albert (Watson and Raynor 1920)
This an experiment involving a 11month old child called albert. He had previously shown no fears apart from not liking loud noises. Albert was introduced to a tame white rat and he showed no fear when albert reached out to touch the rat a metal bar was hit with a hammer behind his head. The noise startled and upset Albert he soon became afraid to touch the rat and then that generalized to other stimuli such as cottoon wool. His parents withdrew him from the experiment before Watson and Raynor could decondition him.

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Behavioural Model continued

Operant conditioning
This is from reward/punishment from an early age certain behaviours are rewarded or punished by caregivers. For example if childhood aggression is rewarded it is likely to become a behavioural trait. Even anxiety and/or depression can be rewarded by receiving the attention and concern of others.
There is gender difference with this as boys are told to "be a big boy" where as girls get more attention.

Social Learning.
Bandura (1973) explained how a child may copy directly the behaviours they observe around them.
Mineka et al did an observation study where they looked at young monkeys raised by parents who already had a fear of snakes. They did not automatically aquire this fear themselves (so it wasn't genetically inherrited) but after seeing their parents showing fear they began to aquire the same intense and persistant fear.

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  • This model overcomes the ethical issue of labeling someone with a mental disorder as if focuses on behaviour. It isnt "She has OCD" its "She is doing that because..."
  • This model has been critised for focusing on outward symptoms and not looking at underlying causes of these psychological problems. It argues that if symptoms alone are treated without understanding of the inner causes then another psychological problem may develop with different symptoms (symptom substitution)
  • This theroy is reductionist because it attempts to explain complex human behaviours by reducing them to very narrow causal factors.
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Cognitive Model

The cognitive model says it is the thoughts themselves that are responsible for the mental disorder such as the phobia, not the object its self.

Look down from tall building > Think thoughts of falling > Feel sick/dizzy

Ellis talked about irrational thinking, ie maladaptive thought which cause psychological problems. These are often preceded by the words "must", "should", "ought". Eg 'I must get a good grade in science'. Ellis argued that always having these thoughts and the disspointment if they aren't achived can lead to depression

Ellis also looked at 'catastrophizing' and its effects on psychological well being. Eg 'because ____ didn't look at me when I said hello this morning, I must be an awful person...'

Both Beck and Ellis believed that negative, irrational thoughts are responsible for mental health problems. Negative thoughts about self others and the world, lead to negative feelings and so to depression and anxiety

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Cognitive Triad

Beck developed the cognitive triad to explain how this works and was used to explain depression.

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Evaluation of the cognitive model

  • There is alot of research to support this model, that thinking patterns are related to psychological disorders. Especially anxiety and depression and that changing these thinking patterns can provide a 'cure
  • A main criticism of this model is that it is 'sticking a plaster' over the problem not actually looking at what is causing it
  • It is seen that its saying that anyone can take care of their own thinking patterns and therefore no psychological problems are necessary. Ellis in particular had no patience with thought suffering from depression.
  • This model also ignores the fact that the 'irrational' thoughts might actually be true and therefore rational.
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