Abnormality - Definitions

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Abnormality - Definitions

Failure to function adequately

This definition percieves individuals as abnormal if their behaviour suggests that they cannot cope with everyday life. Behaviour is considered abnormal when it causes distress leading to dysfunction, like disrupting the ability to work. Rosenham and Seligman (1989) suggested that personal disfunction has seven features, these include: personal distress (depression and anxiety), Maladaptive behaviour, unpredictability, irrationality, observer discomfort (causing discomfort to others),  violation of moral standards and unconventionality.

  • Cultural Relativism - Defintions of adequate functioning are also related to cultural ideas of how individual's should lead their life, meaning that the 'failure to function' principle is likely to result in different diagnoses when applied to people from different cultures as the standard of one culture is being used to measure another. This therefore suggests that it is not an adequate defintion of abnormality on its own. 
  • Who judges? - In order to determine 'failure to function adequately', someone must decide if this is actually the case. A patient may be experiencing personal distress, for example, not being able to get through day to day life. It is then up to the patient to accept their behaviour as abnormal  However, the individual may be quite content with the situation and/ or may simply be unaware that they are not coping. 
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