Deviation from social norms

what is it ?

  • when someone goes against what is expected or accepted behaviour in a social group
  • behaviuor may be incomprehensible to others - people may feel threatened/uncomfortbable
  • its behaviour that most of societ stick to e.g. wearing clothes in public
  • a persons thinking or behaviour is classified as abonormal if it goes against these social norms


  • limits freedom of choice = enforcing social control
  • culturally specific 
  • assessment problems
  • acceptable behaviour can change over time e.g. homosexuality
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Deviation from ideal mental health

what is it?

  • Marie Jahoda used physical health to understand mental health
  • abnormal when we fail to meet 'good mental health'
  • she used anaology of physical health to undestand mental health - when we worry that something is phsyically wrong, we seek help - she suggested we do the same with mental health


  • ideal mental health can be subjective
  • many cultures dont have independence = wont strive for self actualisation
  • cant be compared to getting ideal physical health
  • personal growth is culture bound 
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Failure to function adequately

what is it?

  • when someone cant cope with the task of every day living 
  • cant cope with daily life - e.g. having voices in your head 
  • could lead to a diagonosis -e.g. OCD


  • still includes social norms of adequacy 
  • issues with freedom and exercising your rights
  • it ignores social contet of behaviour
  • someone has to make a judgement - making it subjective and culture bound 
  • abnormal behaviour may be helpful - e.g. a person who has OCD with hand washing may find the behaviour makes htem cheerful, happy and better able to cope with their day
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Biological Approach

  • explains abnormal behaviour in terms of abnormal biology - as a consequence of malfunctioning of the biological systems
  • therapies include ECT, drug thereapy and psychosurgey
  • treats abnormality as a physical condition 
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The behavioural approach

  • learning theory - classical and operant conditioning
  • based on the claim that behaviour is learnt
  • e.g. Bandura - what we learn is not the consequence of direct rewards/punishments but of vicarious or second hand reigforcenment
    • lear by watching and then imitating
    • known as the social learning theory 
  • treatments involve learning new behaviours through conditioning and/or unlearning old maladaptive behaviours 
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The psychodynamic approach

  • explains behaviour in terms of its dynamics - i.e. the forces that drive it 
  • Freud's psychoanalytic theroy of personality 
  • Freud believed that behaviour was motivated by unconsvious desires - drives that are hidden from our conscious awareness
  • originates from conflict or childhood 
    • conflict between ID, and superego 
  • if conflict between ID and supeerego is not managed effectively by the ego then the person might develop a psychological disorder
  • assumes behaviour is motivated by 2 instinctual drives
    • Eros - the sex drive and life instinct
    • Thanatos - the aggressive drive and death instinct
    • both come from the ID
  • aims to treat metnal illness by making the unconscious, conscious, through psychoanalytic theory 
    • dream analysis
    • free association
    • hypsnosis 
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the psychodynamic approach - ID, Ego, Superego

ID - instinct

  • irrational primitive part of personality
  • it is present at birth, demands immediate satisfaction and is ruled by the pleasure principle - an innate drive to seek immediate satisfaction

Ego - reality

  • conscious rational part of the personality
  • develops by the end of the infants first year as a child interacts with the constraints of reality and thus is governed by the reality principle

Superego - morality

  • develops between the ages of 3 and 6
  • embodies our conscious and sense of right and wrong 
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The cognitive approach

  • focuses on the internal mental processes
  • likens the mind to a computer - information is input, processed, stored and retrieved
  • emphasis on how thinking shapes out behaviour
  • cognitive psychologist explains all behavour in terms of thoughts, beliefs and attitudes
  • explains abnomality in terms of irrational thinking
  • treatments = therapies 
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Biological Psychology - Essay


  • assumes all metnal health disorders are related to some change in the body
  • 3 possible factors (causes)
    • genes
    • bichemistry/neuroanatomy
    • viral infection
  • genetic inheritence - passed from parent to child 
    • investigated by studying twins - there are low concordance rates for some disoders like phobias but high concordance rates for others such as schizophrenia
    • many of the genese responsible are a product of evolutionary adaptations in our ancestors despite the traits being no longer useful 
  • biochemistry/neuroanatomy
    • genes tell the body how to function and detemine the structure of the brain e.g. research has shown that schizophrenics have enlarged spaces in their brains = shrinkage of brain tissue
  • viral infection
    • reasearch suggests that some disorders may be related to exposure to certain virsues in the womb
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Biological Psychology - Essay part II


  •  cause and effect?
    • available evidence doesnt support a simple cause and effect link between mental illness and altered brain chemistry - e.g. schizophrenia is commonly associated with excess dopamine however some stuides of patients have s hown reduced dopamine
  • correlational studies
    • immoral to test so findings are based on correlation - investigates relationships and comparisons therefore cause and effect cant be determined
  • critics have claimed that the model is inhumane
    • Thomas Szasz argued that mentall illness did not have a physical basis therefore shouldnt be thought of in the same way 
  • inconclusive evidence
    • no evidence that mental disorders are purely genetic - concordance rates are never 100%
    • Gottesman and Sheilds reviewed 5 twin studies looking for concordance rates for schizophrenia - found 50% concordance rates for MZ twins - its likely that certain disorders inherit a suscpetibilty to the disorder but the disorder itself only develops if the individual is exposed to stressful life situations - stress diathesis model
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Psychodynamic Approach Essay


  • views behaviour in terms of past childhood experiences and the influence of unconscious processes drives and conflicts
  • Freud believed medical illnesses were not a phsyical disorder by were as a result of psychological conflicts
  • conflicts between the ID ego and superego creates anxiety - ego protects itself (ego defences) - these defences can cause distrubed behaviour if overused
  • in childhood if the ego is not developed enough to deal with traumas and therefore they are repressed
  • unconscious mind is always in constant conflict with the conscious mind 


  • methodological issues
    • much of the research was carried out as a case study - although it gives an in depth insight it is usually carried out on one person = limited sample - individiual differences = hard to generalise the findings 
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Psychodynamic Approach Essay part II

  • unfalsifiable
    • unscientific in its analysis of human behaviour -the major claims of the theory cant be proven (e.g. cant prove ID ego and superego exist)
  • influential 
    • the theory has been expanded on by Jung and Erikson
    • first to consider psychological illness as having psychological causes
  • sample bias
    • often on rich men = gender bias
  • unreliable source?
    • Freud's theory came from what his patients had told him - his therapy where patients could talk freely was therefore susceptible to experimenter bias - could have also been affected by social desirability
  • lack of research evidence
    • it is both hard to prove and to disprove the theory
    • if an individual behaves in the predicted way its considered to support the thoery - thowever if they dont then the theory isnt rejected as the person may be acting as a consequence of their defenc mechanisms
  • applicable - both a theory and a therapy 
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Behavioural Approach Essay


  • only focuses on behaviours e.g. the way a person responds to their environment
  • behaviours may be external or internal
  • abnormal behaviours are learned through conditioning or social learning
  • all behaviour is determined by extern events - abnormal behaviour is no different to normal behaviour in terms of how it is learnt 
  • learning environments may reinforce problematic behaviours 


  • limited view
    • approach is heavily criticised for offering an extrememly limited view on the factors that may cause abnormal behaviour
    • explanations tend to ignore the role of cognition in the onset of abnormal behaviour 
  • symptom not cause 
    • treatment may only be temproary because they treat the symptoms, remove the symptom and the cause of the porblem still exists so symptoms can resurface
    • this suggests that although symptoms may be behavioural, the causes may not be 
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Behavioural Approach Essay part II

  • Little Albert
    • learns to fear things that are fury e.g. a mouse
    • case study so hard to generalise
    • unethical - would need to be desensitised
  • Pavlov's Dog
    • successfull conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell
  • animal studies
    • many of the principles have been established through non human studies therefore hard to generalise wholly to human behaviour 
  • observer bias
    • experimenters focus on observable behaviour - sucsceptible to experimenter bias?
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Cognitive Approach Essay


  • abnormality is caused by faulty thinking
  • assumes that thinking, expectations and attitude directs behaviour
  • focuses on the mental processes involved in knowing how we direct our attention, percieve, remember, think and solve problems
  • cognitive model portrays the individual as being the cause of their owen behaviour because the individual controls their own thoughts
  • assumes that we can work out what our cognitions are by controlling what we are exposed to and measuring our response 


  • blames the patient
    • suggests that th patient is responsible
    • may overlook situational factors e.g. life events/family problems
    • disorder is in the patients mind and recovery lies in changing that rather than the individuals environment
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Cognitive Approach Essay part II

  • consequence rather than cuase
    • do thoughts and beliefs really cause disturbance or does a mental disorder lead to faulty thinking - its not clear which one comes first
  • irrational beliefs may be realistic
    • not all irrational beliefs are irrational
    • one study suggested that depressive realists tend to see things for what they are - found that depressed people gave more accurate estimates of the likelihood of a disaster compared to 'normal' controls
  • influential
    • many supporting studies for 'faulty thinking' having a link to a mental disorder e.g. depression
  • combines with other approaches = applicable 
    • behavioural + cognitive = social learning
    • biological + cognitive = evolutional
  • support for the therapies
    • in a meta analysis  of research  on psychotherapies, found cognitive therapy as having the 2nd highest average success rate among 10 different forms of psychotherapy  
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Biological therapies - Drugs


  • antipsychotic drugs - combat schizophrenia symptoms - block dopamine
  • antidepressent drugs - aim to increase the level of serotonin so that more serotonin is left in the synapse therefore prolonging its activity and making transmission of the next impulse easier
  • drug therapies work by altering levels of neurochemicals associated with each disorder


  • +ve easy to use - little effort from user 
  • +ve effectiveness
    • research indicates that they do work
    • report from 2001 showed that relapse rates after 1 year were highest (55%) for schizophrenia patients that had placebale compared to 25% that had the antipsychotic - with 2-23% relapse for drug and therapy - this suggest drugs play an important role
  • -ve placebo effects
    • effectiveness of drugs may be their psychological effects as well as their chemical effects
    • one study reviewed 38 studies of antidepressents - placebo fared almost as well as real drug
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Biologica therapies - Drugs part II

  • -ve temporary
    • tackles symptoms rather than the acuse
  • -ve side effects
    • SSRI's - anxiety nausea insomnia, suicidal thoguhts
    • some can be very addictive
    • side effects are the main reason why they fail
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Biological therapies - ECT


  • administration of a controlled electrical current through electrodes placed on the scalp that induces compulsive seizures which can be effective in relieving a major episode of depression
  • used on people where psychotherapy and medication have proved ineffective
  • used when their is a risk of suicide because it has quicker results than drugs
  • usual given 3 times a week with a patient requiring between 3 and 15 treatments


  • +ve works where other treatments have failed
  • +ve 60-70% of ECT patients improve after treatment
  • +ve it has save many lives
  • -ve one study found that 84% of patients relapsed within 6 months
  • -ve can cause impaired memory
  • -ve can result in cardiovascular changes + headaches
  • -ve 30% reported fear/anxiety in the 1999 DOH report
  • -ve patients that had a 'sham' treatment recovered too suggesting attention plays an important role 
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Psychological therapies - Psychoanalysis


  • seeks to recover repressed memories or unresolved conflicts
  • techniques
    • free association - patient expresses thoughts exactly as they occur even if they seem inimportant/irrelevant
    • therapist interpretation - therapists listen carefull looking for clues about possible causes of the problem
    • working through - examine the same issues over + over 


  • -ve based on a flawed theory
  • -ve fails to acknowledge individual differences - imposes the same theory on all
  • -ve loftus stated 'repressed' memories are likely to be false from therapists planting 'false memories'
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Psychological therapies - SD


  • gradual exposure to a feared stimulus
  • based on countre conditioning 
  • steps
    • learn relaxation
    • construct desensitisation hierarchy
    • visualise each event whilst relaxing
    • work through hierarchy
    • eventually master fear


  • +ve quick - little effort
  • +ve adaptive to multiple fears
  • +ve 75% recovery for phobics
  • -ve deals with symptoms not cause
  • -ve may be less effective on ancient fears (those with an evolutionary basis) e.g. fear of the dark 
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Psychological therapies - REBT


  • irrational beliefs are experienced as self defeatingg thoughts
  • challenges thinking using logical,empirical and/or pragmatic disputing
  • pateint moves from catastrophising to more rational thinking


  • +ve useful for clinical + non clinical groups
  • +ve more effective than drugs alone
  • -ve it doesnt address the influence of the external environment
  • -ve not suitable for all e.g. some may reject its direct challenges
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