Abnormality Revision

  • Created by: Hope
  • Created on: 10-12-14 13:43

Definitions of Abnormality: Deviations from Social

Someone who violates the conventional rules of Society.

Explicit- Laws

Implicit- Something that everyone does e.g. Politeness 

People defy these social norms are seen as undesirable and antisoical. Therefore Abnormal


  • It varies to time change - 50 years ago it was seen as abnormal and an 'illness' to be gay.
  • Some behaviours are seen as appropriate in one context but not in another - e.g. being in a bikini at the beach is normal but being in a bikini in a meeting would be seen as defying an implicit rule
  • It varies between cultures - It is a social norm for people in the UK to eat with cultery whereas in India is is a social norm to eat with your hands. This means that it is culturally relative as we cannot judge them as abnormal as in their culture it is fine.
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Definitions of Abnormality: Failure to Function Ad

Behaviour is seen as abnormal if it is maladaptive - If your behaviour limits you from adapting to everyday life. It is behaviour that gets in the way.

Rosenham and Seligman proposed that a combination of the following makes you abnormal 

  • Personal Distress
  • Maladaptivness
  • Irrationality 
  • Unpredictability, Unconventionality
  • Observer discomfort 
  • Violation of moral and ideal standards


  • Who decides if someones behaviour is actually abnormal? - Peter Sutcliffe (the Yorkshire Ripper) killed many women thinking he was defending himself from evil he was schizophrenic. Whereas we would think he was abormal we might think he is abnormal because he has a combination of the laws he might think he is fine.
  • Relates to how culture believes our lives should be lived - Lower class seen as abnormal because they're lifestyle is different
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Definitions of Abnormality: Deviation from Ideal M

Jahoda (1958) said that not possessing one of the following would make you abnormal:

  • High self-esteem
  • Strong sense of indentity
  • Self-actualisation
  • Resistance to stress
  • Accurate sesne of reality


  • We cannot diagnose mental abnormality the sameas physical abnormality - dont have definite symptoms (e.g. cold/pains)
  • This means everyone must be abnormal to a degree?
  • It is culturally relative - Self Actualisation is ideal for members of an individualist culture but not to collectivist cultures. 
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The Behaviorist Approach

Main Focus: All behaviours are learnt through our experiances in life. Abnormal behaviours are learnt through classical and operant conditioning or social learning. These behaviours are maladaptive for the individual which makes them abnormal. 

Learning Theory:

Classical Conditioning- 

Learning occurs through association. During experiments they would fine an unconditioned stimulus where there is no response (mouse). They would pair this with a neutral response which creates a response (loud noise). This results in a stimulus response link. 

e.g. Neutral Stimulus + Conditioned stimulus = Conditioned response 

     Littlle Albert (1920)

Before Conditioning: Mouse = No response 

                                 Loud Noise = Fear 

      During Conditioning: Mouse + Loud Noise = Fear 

        After Conditioning: Mouse = Fear

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The Behaviorist Approach - Continued

Operant Conditioning

Learning occurs through reinforcement. 

If someone where to use positive reinforcement the probability of repitition increases. 

 - Naughty child recieves attention for being naughty= continues to be naughty to gain attention.

If an action is punished probability of repitition decreases.

 - Student recieves detention for not doing homework 

Negative reinforcement also increases probability of repetition as it takes away negative aspect from situation 

 - If you have a headache and take some medicene. The medicene is the negative reinforcer because it takes        away the pain.

Social Learning

Behaviours are learned by seeing others rewarded and punished. 

Bandura believed we can learn through watching others and the consequences of their actions. 

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The Behaviorist Approach: Evaluation


  • It is universally relative. You are able to adapt the model to different cultures and people.
  • Overcomes issue of labelling someone as 'abnormal'. Instead the model assumes the behaviour is abnormal and assumes the individual can learn new adaptive behaviour
  • It is a scientific approach - It has clear testable concepts which have been supported. For example there is evidence that rewards and punishments are important determinants of human behaviour.


  • The model can be seen as unethical. For example conditioning a child to react and not react to things takes away their free will. 
  • It has a limited view and is reductionist. It offers an extremely limited view of very complex behaviours. For example there is not much detail on social learning and also it is faulted as negative reinforcement can sometimes be a good thing. 
  • It ignores the real cause of the mental illness and only focuses on the symptoms
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Behaviorist Treatments

Systematic De-Sensitisation

Based on principle of classical conditioning. Systematic De-Sensitiation is a counter-conditioning procedure where a fear repsonse is replaced by a relaxation method. 

Based on Recipricol Inhibition - replacing fear with relaxation (as they cannot be experianced at the same time) 

  1. Client is first taught how to relax (which is key to get from fear to relaxation)
  2. Client and therapist work on a de-sensitisation heirarchy (doing things fom the least scary thing to most scary). 
  3. They then move up this heirarchy until the highest is reached in a state of relaxation,


Often used with phobias. The client is presented with the feared stimuli without an escape root. Apparently works because high levels of anxiety cannot be sustained. 

Aversion Therapy

Technique pairs undesired problem with bad stimulus.

E.g. Giving someone with an addiction problem a pill that makes them ill.

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Behaviorist Treatments: Evaluation


  • Systematic De-Sensitisation is very effective. 60%-90% of clients with phobias respond to it. 
  • They are quick and require less effort on the patients part that other psychotherapies. As a result, successful outcomes can be achieved relatively quickly. 


  • Symptom Substitution - Only targets symptoms and therefore supressing them which can cause others to arise. 
  • Ethical issues with flooding, aversion therapy and SD. THey have to visualise feared subject which could create lots of distress.
  • Ohman et al suggested SD might not be as effective treating anxities that have underlying evolutionary survival component (fear of the dark, fear of heights, fear of dangerous animals). The reason for this is becaus they are 'ancient fears' that helped our ancestors to survive and therefore harder to shift
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Psychodynamic Approach

Our unconscience (part of our mind that we are not aware of) drives our behaviour. Belief that an individuals abnormal behaviour is determind by underyling psychological conflicts of which they are largely unaware. 

Theorists focus mostly on past experiances. Notably early parent-child relationships. 

Structure of Psyche

ID= Pleasure Principle. Concerned with satifsying basic needss. Born with it. 

      Dominance of ID may lead to conduct disorders with children and agression with adults. 

Super Ego= Opposition of ID. Acts as conscience - maintaining morality. 

                Develops through rewards in phallic stage through identification with parents.

                Dominance of superego may lead to problems with pleasure in future. Could also get depression.

Ego= Reality Principle. Finds balance between both ID and Super Ego.

       Develops through childhood when child begins to experience life.

       If Ego fails to balance the competing demands psychological disorders may results. 

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Psychodynamic Approach- Continued

Defence Mechanism

When there is conflict between the three forces the psyche has to protect itself from expressing too much anxiety. Occurs during childhood

  • Repression- putting unpleasant thoughts into unconcious
  • Projection- Blaming someone else
  • Denial
  • Displacement- Venting anger at a different source
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Pyschodymanic Approach Evaluation


  • Helped us appreciate that psychological conflict is universal and leads to abnormal functioning when it becomes excessive
  • Freud removed idea that abnormal people where 'demons' and showed they weren't resposnsible
  • Argued for a respectful and humane attitude towards mentally ill


  • Concepts are too abstract. Too difficult to define and research. 
  • Over emphasises importantce of sexuality and childhood. Underestimates role of social relationships
  • Little evidence Freuds therapies have ever cured anyone 
  • Neglects clients immediate problems and only looks for root cause 
  • Cannot be generalised - only studied a small group of middle aged men.
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Psychodynamic Approach- Continued 2

Psychosexual Stages

Traumatic experiances in the childhood can cause problems in adults life. If we experiance a problem at a certain stage we can become 'fixated' and remain there through adult life. Each stage is associated with different behaviours

  • Oral Stage (0-2)- If feeding isnt right e.g. Demands not met, put onto foods too fast. Oral traits like smoking and problems with eating and drinking can develop. 
  • Anal Stage (2-3)- Too strict/not strict enough potty training. Can create possible obsessions with cleanliness and order or difficulty with expressing emotion
  • Phallic Stage (3-6)- Everyone goes through it. Oedipis Complex (childs unconscious desire for exclusive love of parent from opposite sex. Desire includes jealousy toward parent of the same sex and wish for that parents death. Principle reason for weakening of complex in boys is fear of punishment from father.) Can create anxiety and inadequacy. Problems with moral and gender identity.
  • Latency 
  • Genital Stage (12-18)- Fixations from early years become active 
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Physchodynamic Treatments

Focus' more on the psychological approach to behaviour (how people think and feel). 

Free Association-

Patient expresses thoughts exactly as they occur even if they seem irrelevant. 

Lies with the fact that the accosications are determined by unconcious factors which therapists try to uncover.

Procedure is designed to reveal conflict and repressed memories. The therapist will interpret these and the client can add on. 

Projective Tests-

When a person is shown an ambigious, meaningless image. The mind works to make meaning. Meaning tells something about that persons personality. 

E.g. Rorshach inkblot test

Client will be shown inkblots that are folded over to create mirror effect and asked what they look like. 

Dream Analysis-

Where the clients dreams are interpreted. Freud thought that dream content had meaning as unconcious thoughts are more expressed more freely. 

The therapist will analyse the manifest content of the clients dream and work out the latent content which will reveal the conflict in the unconcious

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Psychodynamic Treatments Evaluation

Projective Tests

  • The psychologist can project their own unconcious thought onto the interpretation
  • Critisised for validity - is it measuring what its meant to be measuring?

Its all time consuming and expensive

Bergin (1971) found that 83% of people recieving psychoanalysis improved

May not be possible to evaluate scientifically - insight, transerfence and repression are dififcult to measure 

Masson (1988) said all power lies with the analyst - therapist could abuse the power 

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The Cognitive Model

Abnormality in behaviour comes from faulty percptive and thinking processes. 

Cognitive Content= Material thats being processed. 

Cognitive Process= How we process information. Everyone processes differently.

Cognitive Products= Conclusions people reach

Ellis (1963) - Thinking Irrationally 

Everyones thoughts are sometimes rational and sometimes irrational.

Distorted thinking = Negative Thoughts, Irrational Thinking and Illogical Beliefs 

Faulty thinking developes Maladaptive Behaviours which creates Psychological Problems 

Thinking Irrationally = Behaving Irrationally 

Thinking Rationally= Behaving Rationally 

People who think irrationally reveal it through phrases like 'ought', 'should' and 'must'. They also tend to exaggerate. 

Faulty and irrational thinking prevents the individual behaving adaptively. Ellis refers to this as the A-B-C model:

A- Activating Event (Sees dog)

B- Belief (Rational- 'it's harmless/Irrational - 'Its going to attack me')

C- Conseqeunce (Irrational- panic)

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Cognitive Model Continued

Beck - Cognitive Triad 

Beck was interested in finding why people become depressed

He found that depressed people draw illogical conclusions about themselves 

Negative Thoughts = Negative Feelings = Depression 

3 types of negative thinking:

  • Negative view of self
  • Negatvie view of world
  • Negative view of future 
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Cognitive Model Evaluation


  • Model offers useful approach to disorders like depression and anxiety because it considers the role of thoughts and beliefs 
  • Successful in treating depression, anxiety, stress and eating disorders. - For example Thase Et Al (2007) comapred cognitive therapy with antidepressant medication. Results showed that CT was just as effective as the medication. This also shows that depression is definitely a disorder of faulty thinking
  • People with mental disorders do exhibit thought patterns associated with maladaptive thinking


  • Faulty cognitions may be the consequence of a disorder like a chemical imbalance 
  • Can take a long time and are costly 
  • Model does not attempt to examine or address origins of disorder
  • The irrational thoughts may be true 
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Cognitive Therapies

Cognitive therapys assume we treat psychological disorders by changing original faulty thought. 

  1. Therapist will identify faulty cognition 
  2. Work out whether cognition is true 
  3. Set goals to help client think about it in positive way 

Rational Emotive Therapy 

Tells client how damaging their belief systems are and how the beliefs control their emotions 

Therapist will use argument, rationality and sarcasm to help change them. This makes the client feel more self worth and live a more fufilling life. 

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Biological Approach

Main Assumptions

  • Mental illness is the same as pysichal illness
  • Abnormal behaviour/thinking are caused by bioloigcal dysfunctions

Possible causes of Biological Abnormality:


Inbalance of Neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that act as 'messangers' between nerve cells.  If they are inbalanced it can cause abnormality

  • Schizophrenia - Excess Dopamine
  • Depression - Reduced Serotine 


All physical characteristics are determined by genes. Genes code for chrain chemicals - strong influence over our behaviour. Genes have been involved in many disorders. 

E.g. Holland Et Al (1988)- Experiment with anoreixa and identical/non-identical twins. Foudn concordance rate of 50%. Identical twins were more likely than non-identical twins to develop anorexia suggesting genetic component.

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Biological Approach- Continued

Brain Structure 

The structure of the brain effects abnormality.

  • E.g. Examining twins brains, one with schizophrenia had enlarged ventricles. 
  • Charles Whitmas had a tumour in his brain when he shot all of the peopel from the tower on Texas Campus 
  • If you have a blow to the head you can become abnormal 
  • Structure of nervous system is related to disorders 

Viral Infection/Illness

Idea that virus' and bacteria can invade the body and cause mental illness. 

Research suggests some disorders (e.g. schizophrenia) may be related to certain virus' while their in the womb.

E.g. Torrey (2001) found that mothers of many people with schizophrenia had contracted a particular strain on influenza during pregnancy. THe virus may enter the unborn childs brain, where it remains dormant until puberty. 

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Biological Approach Evaluation


  • Has practical applications - treatments have been developed to reduce use of neurotransmitters. This shwos that the biological approach can save lives.
  • There is supporting research. Hollands experiment found that some illnesses are genetic 


  • The view is reductionist and limited. Tends to ignore any other reason for abnormality e.g. poverty. - Model is an oversimplification
  • Scientific research has not always supported its claims - Seligman said everyone suffers from anxietys sometimes theyre just more prominante.
  • This model only deals with the symptoms not the cause. So it might not have long lasting solutions - if yuo dontt address cause symptom subsitution will occur.
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Biological Therapys: Drugs

The biological therapys target physiological processes such as functioning of neurotransmitters, hormones and parts of the brain. 


  • Antipsychotics are able to control sumptoms of schizophrenia. They block the action of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain by binding it too (without stimulating) dopamine receptors so that the dopamine cant reach it.  
  • The atypical antipyschotic drugs act by only temporarily occpuying dopamine receptors and then rapidly dissociating to alllow normal dopamine transmition. This explains why atypical antipsychotics have less side effects (so more people use them)
  • Antidepressants work by either reducing the rate of re-absorption or by blocking the enzyme which breaks down the neurotransmitters. 
  • This increases the rate of neurotransmitter avaliable to excite neighbouring cells. (as depression is due to insuffficent amounts of the neurotransmitter serotonine)
  • Most common antidepressent is SSRI. 
  • They regulate mood and cause relaxation 
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Biological Therapys: Drugs - Evaluation


  • Drug therapies offer significant relief to many sufferers leading to deinstitutionalisation. 
  • Drugs are reasonably effective for treating certain medical disorders and are readily avaliable, easily administered and cost-effective.
  • Drugs have worked where other treatments have failed 
  • Can be effective when used in conjuction with psychotherapy: relieve disabiling symptoms allowing psychological factors to be dealt with 


  • Effectiveness varies between indiviuals. 
  • Drugs may have a placebo effect - person may feel better because they took a pill regardless of whats in it 
  • The person may have got better without the drug but believes it was the drug which would mean they would continue taking it which could compramise their health 
  • Drugs do not necessarily provide a long-term cure. When the person stops taking the drugs the symptoms may recur. 
  • They treat the symptoms but not the problem 
  • Problems like addiction and dangerous side effect may arise. 
  • Can lead to patients being continually discharged and re-admitted 
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Biological Therapies: ECT

ECT is generally used in severly depressed patients where other psychosurgery and medication have failed and are very likely of commited suicide as they are much quicker than drugs. 

The patient is given an anasthetic and muscle relaxant. A sub-lethal electric shock is apploied to the non-dominiant cerebral hemisphere to produce a siezure. 

The individual awakens and remembers nothing of the treatment but may suffer long-term memory loss. Takes total of 6 sessions.

The shock activates noradrenaline transmission, reduces serotonine re-uptake and increases sensitivity of dopamine receptors all of which help elevate depression. 

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Biological Therapies: ECT - Evaluation


  • ECT offers faster relief than drugs which is important for suicidal patients
  • There are no detectable changes in brain structure, side effects are being reduced 
  • Appears to be successful in cases of severe depression. Janicak found that 80% of all severly depressed patients respond well to ECT comapared to 64% with drugs theraphy.
  • Successful in treating severe depression where everything else has failed 


  • There are physcial side effects like impaired memory and headaches. 1/3 patients suffer from memory loss.
  • Controversial treatment. People are unsure of how it works
  • Sackhiem found that there was a high relapse rate within a year suggesting that relief was temporary not a cure 
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