• Created by: Abby18
  • Created on: 22-05-16 23:51

Deviation from social norms

One can be regarded as abnormal if they deviate from social norms, i.e. they do not do what is regarded to be socially acceptable.


  • P - Deviation is related to context and degree
  • E - Judgements of deviation are dependent on the context of behaviour
  • E - Some behaviours are acceptable in one context but not in another
  • L - There is no clear line between what is abnormal and what is harmless eccentricity
  • P - Explanation is limited
  • E - Defining behaviour as abnormal is pointless without also considering cultural context
  • E - What is considered a diagnosable disorder in one, may be considered noral in another
  • L - Means there are no universal standards for labelling behaviour as abnormal
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Failure to function adequately

If one cannot carry out basic tasks such as eating or sleeping – then they have failed to function adequately and they are abnormal. This is what this definition suggests.


  • P - Abnormal behaviours can also help us
  • E - Behaviours that appear dysfunctional can also lead to helpful intervention from others
  • E - E.g. depression may lead to extra attention, helping the person deal with stress in their life
  • L - Suggests that behaviours that appear abnormal may be adaptive for an individual
  • P - Explanation is limited
  • E - Definitions of adequate functioning are related to cultural ideals of how life should be lived
  • E - Likely to produce different diagnoses when applied to people from different cultures
  • L - Explains cultural differences in diagnosis of abnormality, as lifestyle differences can be mis-interpreted as failure to function adequately
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Deviation from ideal mental health

Jahoda identified main characteristics of ideal mental health. She suggested that if one doesn't have these attributes then they don't have ideal mental health and they are therefore abnormal.

  • Managing stress effectively.
  • Strong sense of identity.
  • Actualisation of one’s potential.


  • P - Few people meet this criteria
  • E - According to this definition, all of us would be decribed as abnormal to some degree
  • E - It would be unusual to find people that satisfy all of the criteria all of the time.
  • L - Need to ask how many criteria need to be absent before someone is seen as abnormal
  • P - Explanation is limited
  • E - Most criteria apply mainly to individuals living in Western cultures
  • E - Applying them to members of non-Western cultures would, therefore, be inappropriate
  • L - Would lead to an over-diagnosis of abnormality in members of those cultures
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Biological approach

Abnormalities can be passed on by:

  • Genetic inheritance
    • Mental illness can be inherited via genes so that people who are related are more likely to develop the same disorders
    • Many genes for abnormal behaviours are the product of evolutionary adaptations despite the fact these are no longer usefull
    • There are low concordance rates for some (e.g. phobias) but high concordance rates for others (e.g. schizophrenia)
  • Neurochemistry
    • Altered brain chemistry can lead to changes in the levels or activity of neurotransmitters
    • Low serotonin levels have been found in the brains of depressives and high levels of dopamine in schizophrenics
  • Neuroanatomy
    • Abnormalities in the structure of the brain, caused by ageing disease ect. can lead to the development of abnormal behaviour
    • E.g.some schizophrenics have enlarged ventricles in the brain, indicating shrinkage of brain tissue around the ventricles
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Biological approach Evaluation

  • P - Inconclusive evidence for the role of gentic inheritance
  • E - If genetics were sole cause, twins with gentic predisposition for disorder, both become ill
  • E - Gottesman & Shields found if 1 twin developed schiz. - 50% the other would develop it
  • L - The diathesis-stress model can explain this - individuals inherit a vunerability for a disorder, but this only develops if the individual is exposed to stressful life conditions.
  • P - Biological factors are not necessarily the cause of pathology
  • E - Changes in neurochemistry could be the consequence of mental disorder not the cause
  • E - In reseach on enlarged ventricles, its not clear whether the shrinkage of brain tissue is cause/consequence of schiz
  • L - Suggests there isn't simple cause-and-effect relationship with bio influences & disorders
  • P - Biological approach has led to successful treatments for mental illness
  • E - E.g. drug treatments are based on our understanding of activity of neurotransmitters 
  • E - Evidence some treatments are effective - e.g. WHO reports that there were higher relapse rates for schiz. treated with placebos
  • L - As altering neurochemistry is successful with ridding abnormal symptoms, suggests the origin of symptoms is neurochemical
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Psychodynamic approach

Early experiences cause mental disorders

  • In childhood, ego is not mature enough to deal with trauma
  • Can lead to repression of any emotions associated with the trauma
  • Later in life, further trauma may cause the individual to re-experience this earlier trauma 

Role of unconscious motivation

  • Unconscious mind has a large effect on behaviour through the influence of repressed emotions
  • Leads to distress as the individual doesn't understand why they are acting in that particular way
  • Underlying problem cannot be controlled until it is brought into conscious awareness

Role of childhood conflicts with id, ego and superego

  • They create anxiety for the individual, which can be reduced by defence mechanisms e.g
    • Repression - moving unpleasant thoughts or desires into the unconscious
    • Regression - behaving like a child when faced with a difficult situation
  • Mechanisms can becomes pathological if overused - could lead to problems in everyday life
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Psychodynamic approach Evaluation

  • P - Lack of research for psychodynamic explanation
  • E - Theory is difficult to prove using scientific methods, so most support is from case studies
  • E - Fisher and Greenberg reviewed over 2,500 experimental studies and found many of Freud's majar claims about the causes of abnormality recieved experimental support
  • L - Despite this, many psychodynamic claims cannot be falsified which is necessary for it to be regarded as a scientific explantation for abnormality
  • P - Many key concepts are abstract therefore are difficult to define or demonstrate
  • E - E.g. id, ego and superego are key aspects of the approach yet they aren't concrete entities
  • E - There is no way to know for certain that a process actually occurs as it takes place on an subconscious level, e.g. repression
  • L - Makes it difficult too conduct research to demonstrate these processes
  • P - Psychdynamic approach has led to successful treatments for mental illness
  • E - Shedler's review found psychodynamic theapries proved as effective as other therapies
  • E - Shedler suggests that this treatments are effective as they enable therapists to gain awareness of thoughts and feelings rather than focusing on symptoms alone
  • L - Sucess of psychodynamic therapies offers further support for the validity of these concepts
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Behavioural approach

Only behaviour is important

  • Approach only focuses on the abnormal behaviour of the individual
  • Contrasts to other approaches which focus on underlying psychological/physical causes
  • E.g. someone with a phobia displays anxious behaviour in the presence of phobic object

Abnormal behaviour is learnt

  • Abnormal behaviour is no different to normal behaviour in terms of how it is learnt
  • Learned through rpocesses of classical and operant conditioning and social learning
  • A disorder may develop if aladaptive behaviour leads to some reward (operant conditioning)

Learning environemnts

  • The enivironment may reinforce maladaptive behaviour by providing desired consequences
  • It is usually disruptive (i.e. not being able to leave home) sometimes it is useful for the individual (e.g. recieving help from others)
  • E.g. someone with agoraphobia won't leave the house to help lower anxiety levels
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Behavioural approach Evaluation

  • P - Criticised because of its limiting view on causing factors
  • E - Behaviourist explanations are limited as they may ignore other significant influences
  • E - These include genetics, neurotansmitter imbalances and emotional influences
  • L - Suggests that behavioural processes do not operate to the exclusion of other influences
  • P - Counter evidence that challenges the behavioural approach
  • E - Explanations of phobias focus on the role of conditioning yet many cannot recal any incident that would lead to traumatic conditioning
  • E - But some basic anxieties may be 'wired' into the brain as they provided survival advantages
  • L - Explains why some abnormal behaviours are learned easily and others tend to be never learnt at all
  • P - Sucess of therapies based off behaviourist approach
  • E - Includes systematic desensitisation (classical conditioning) and modelling (social learning)
  • E - But, may not lead to long term cures as emoving symptoms may not deal with the cause of disorder
  • L - Therefore the illness returns due to the underlying probles still there, which casts doubt on the claim that the problem is purely a matter of maladaptive learning
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Cognitive Approach

Caused by faulty thinking

  • Mental disorders arise out of distortions in the way that people think about a situation
  • Faulty and irrational thinking prevents the individual from behaviouring in a rational manner
  • E.g. depression may develop as person holds irrational belief about cause of their failure

ABC Model

    • A - Activating event
    • B - the Belief
    • C - Consequence
  • Activating event e.g overheard remark can lead to irrational belief about cause of their failure

Individual is in control

  • Individual is in control rather than being controlled by other factors e.g. biological factors
  • Abnormality is due to faulty thinking as the individual controls their own thoughts
  • Implies that recovery is only possible by changing the way an individual thinks about their life
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Cognitive Approach Evaluation

  • P - Blames the patient
  • E - Cgonitive approach says that the fault lies with the patient (their faulty thinking)
  • E - By blaming the patient, it overlooks other factors beyond the individual's ability to change
  • L - Must include those factors not under the dircet control of the individual
  • P - Faulty thinking may be a consequence not a cause
  • E - E.g. its possible that individual develops negative way of thinking because of their disorder
  • E - Lewisohn et al measured distorted cognitions ina large community sample and they found no difference beween those who eventually developed depression and those that did it
  • L - Means that its difficult, if not impossible to demonstrate that negative thinking is the cause
  • P - Success of therapies based on this approach
  • E - Shown to be effective in the treatment of a range of disorders, e.g. panic disorders
  • E - Studies have shown that people recieving cognitive therapy improve steadily in cognitive functioning over the course of their therapy - they became less pessamistic in their thinking
  • L - Supports the claim that thought processes and mental disorders are connected
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Biological therapies - Drugs

Antipsychiotic drugs

  • Used to combat the symptoms of psychotic illnesses e.g. schizophrenia
  • They block the action of dopamine to alleviate symptoms
    • Conventional and atypical

Antidepressant drugs

  • Used to relieve the symptoms of mood disorders e.g. depression
  • SSRI's prolong the action of serotonin, relieving the symptoms of depression
  • They work by reducing the rate of re-absorption of a neurotransmitter or blocking the enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters at the synapse

Anti-anxiety drugs

  • BZs enhance activity of GABA, the body's natural method of reducing anxiety
  • BBs lower the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and thus decrease anxiety levels
  • E.g. BBs cause heart to beat more slowly and blood pressure to drop, making the person feel less anxious
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Drugs - Evaluation

  • P - Effective
  • E - Research shows that drugs are an effective means of treating the symptoms of mental disorders and permitting sufferes to live a normal life
  • E - E.g. WHO report found that antipsychiotics more effective than placebos with schizophrenia
  • L - Suggests that drugs play an important role in treatment of disorders, but is most effective combined with psychological support
  • P - Easy to use
  • E - Drugs require little effort from patient who doesn't have to think or spend hours on therapy
  • E - In reality, many clinicians advocate a mix of drugs and some form of the therapy
  • L - As a result patient is more likely to be motivated to continue treatment which is then more likely to be effective
  • P - Side effects
  • E - E.g. SSRIs may cause anxiety, sexual dysfunction and even sucidal thoughts
  • E - Antipsychiotics also have tardive dyskinesia 
  • L - Side effects is one of the main reasons why drug treatments do not work for all as some cannot tolerate the side effects
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Biological therapies - ECT

How does it work?

  • Electrodes

Why does it work?

  • Neurotransmitter theory
    • ECT works by causing the release of neurotransmitters into the brain, which reduces symptoms of depression
    • ECT relases neurotransmitters such as serotonin
  • Anti-convulsant theory
    • Seizures teach the brain to try to resist them
    • This dapens abnormally active brain circuits, which then stabilise the mood
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ECT Evaluation

  • P - Effective treatment for depression
  • E - Leiknes et al reviewed data from 90 randomised controlled trials which showed 'real' ECT better than 'sham'
  • E - Rose et al found the proportion of people that found ECT helped ranged from 30%-80%
  • L - But studies that reported lower satisfaction levels were more likely to be conducted by patients, those reporting higher sat. levels were more likely to have been carried out by doctors
  • P - Saves lives in people whose depression is thought to be life threatening
  • E - ECT can be effective treatment especially those with deep depression could lead to suicide
  • E - Bradvik and Berglund analysed the cases of patients with severe depression and found suicide attempts less common in patients who had recieved ECT
  • L - Because of the life-saving effect, overall benefits would be considered greater than the risks
  • P - Side effects
  • E - DoH report found 30% of people who had ECT claied it left them with fear and anxiety
  • E - Leiknes et al found that cognitive impairments were greater in individuals who recieved bilateral ECT rather than those who had unilateral
  • L - High risk of cognitive impairment in ECT but by lowering dose would reduce effectiveness
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Psychological therapies - Psychoanalysis

Repression and the unconscious mind

  • Many of the factors that cause behaviour operate at an unconscious level
  • These are the result of repressed memories or unresolved conflicts from childhood
  • Therapist traces these influences back to their origins and helps the individual deal with them

How does it work?

  • Free association
    • Patient expresses thoughts exactly as they occur even though they may appear unimportant to them
  • Therapist interpretation
    • Therapist draws tentative conclusions about the possible causes of the problem
  • Working through
    • Patient and therapist exmaine the same issues over and over again to gain greater clarity concerning the causes of their behaviour
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Psychanalysis Evaluation

  • P - Research support for the effectiveness of psychoanalysis
  • E - DeMaat et al carried out review and concluded that psychoanalysis produced significant improvements  in symptoms that were maintained in the years after treatment
  • E - Cogan and Porcerelli compared patients at the beginnings of psychoanalysis with those at the end. The latter group had significantly low levels for depression
  • L - Supports effectiveness as it leds to drecrease in negative & increase in positive outcome
  • P - Culturally biased against those from collectivist cultures
  • E - Sue & Sue argue Asian cultures are more likely to speak to family than therapist 
  • E - China, a person who id depresed or anxious aviods, thoughts that cause distress rather than being willing to discuss openly 
  • L - Contrasts with the Western belief that open discussion and insight are aways helpful
  • P - Issue of false memories 
  • E - Critics claim some therapists are unwittingly planting false memories
  • E - Loftus has shown that it is possible to induce false memories through suggestion, and that theses memories can become more vivid over time
  • L - Psychoanalysis assumes that patients are able to accurately recall memories that have been repressed but there is little evidence to support this
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Psychological therapies - Systematic desensitisati

How does it work?

  • Patient is taught how to relax and then works through their desensitisation heriarchy with the aim being able to relax and therefore reduce their anxiety to each stage
  • Responses of relaxation and fear are incompatible and so the fear is gradually dispelled
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SD Evaluation

  • P - Relatively quick and requires less effort on the patients' part compared to other therapies
  • E - As a result, patients are more likely to persevere, making treatment more likely to succed
  • E - Can be self administered theorugh computer stimulations
    • Chandler et al found that a computer-delievered SD programmes was effective in the treatment of agoraphobics
  • L - This has the potential to make delivery of SD evern more efficient for the patient
  • P - SD is effective for a range of anxiety disorder
  • E - McGrath et al estimated that SD is effective in about 75%of patients with specific phobias although it was less effective with social phobias
  • E - Capafons et al found that people with areophobia has less anxiety after SD treatment compared to a control group ahd showed lower physiological signs during a flight stimulation
  • L - Shows that SD is useful for a number of different problems, particularly those that have anxiety as their main symptom
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Psychological therapies - Cognitive Behaviour Ther

REBT - Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy


  • Helps client understand the irrationality of their thinking and the consequences of thinking this way
  • Enables them to change self-defeating thoughts and as a result become happier and less anxious

How does it work?

  • Irrational beliefs about activating events have unhealthy consequences
  • REBT tries to change irrantional beliefs into rational
  • During therapy, patient in encouraged to dispute their irrational beliefs
  • They are then able to move to a more rational interpretation of events 
  • Leads to a more healthier state and ore positive behaviours
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CBT Evaluation

  • P - Usefulness is not limited to people suffereing from mental disorders
  • E - For many non-clinical population e.g. students suffering from examination anxiety
  • E - Yoichi et al developed a computer-based councelling programme based on REBT that produced significant decreases in anxiety 
  • L - Shows that REBT helps people chane dysfunctional thoughts and beaviours in both clinical anad not clinical
  • P - Effective
  • E - Meta-anaylsis by Engels at al, it was effective in treating different disorders e.g. OCD 
  • E - It is effective on 'non-targeted variables' (blood plessure) & 'targeted varibles' (anxiety)
  • L - As REBT can also influence physiological changes in the individual this suggests that its effectiveness is not simply due to client compliance
  • P - REBT's influence my be limited 
  • E - REBT fails to address the issue that irrational environments continue beyond therapy
  • E - Clients may be in a amrriage with a bullyign aprtner or work with an overly critical boss. These environemtns reinforce dsfunctional thoughts and behaviours aith in the individual
  • L - Shows thoughts may not always be irrational; environment not thinking that is faulty
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