Approaches to Psychopathology and Treatments (Abnormality)

Psychology A AQA, AS, Unit 2 Individual Differences

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  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 15-05-12 21:02

Biological Approach

Main Assumption:

All behaviour is the result of physiological processes or is inherited, therefore all abnormal behaviour is a result of these processes or is inherited aswell.

Key Features:

Biochemistry-ab beh result of imbalanced hormones or neurotransmitters, e.g. depression is a result of low levels of serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline.

Neuroanatomy-ab beh result of abnormal brain structures, e.g. Schizophrenia result of enlarged ventricles in the brain

Genetics- ab beh result of abnormal DNA, e.g. if one monozygotic twin develops Schizophrenia then their twin has a 50% chance of also developing it.

Infection-alters brain/body cells, leading to ab beh.

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Evaluation of the Biological Approach

Strengths:

  • Development of Quick and Easy treatments- leads to drug therapy, which is quick and effective and suitable for the majority of patients.
  • Removes stigma of mental illness-fault doesn't lie within the patient, but within their biology.

Weaknesses:

  • Encourages Passive Patients- patients feel that they cannot help themselves if the abnormality is "in their genes".
  • Reductionist- the approach ignores learning and thought processes which could also contribute to abnormal behaviour.
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Biological Treatment: Drug Therapy

Anti Depressants (depression=low serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline)

  • SSRI'S (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)- block repuptake transporter of serotonin only, therefore serotonin stays in synapse longer and is more likely to bind and reduce effects of depression.
  • MAOI'S (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors)-block enzymes which break down neurotransmitters, so that neurotransmitters are not broken down and stay in synapse longer, more likely to bind and reduce effects of depression.
  • Tricyclics-block reuptake of all 3 neurotransmitters

Anti Psychotics (Schizophrenia-excess of dopamine)- block dopamine receptor so that dopamine cannot bind, therefore reduces dopamine levels and Schizophrenia.

Anti Anxiety- aid GABA (body's natural anti anxiety neurotransmitter) by blocking 2nd receptor site and blocking electrical impulses across the synapse

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Evaluation of Drug Therapy

Strengths:

  • 60% Effective- in treating cases of depression, therefore suitable, valid treatment for the majority of sufferers.
  • Quick and Easy- effective within a couple of weeks, therefore suitable for preventing cases becoming more serious/ sufferers see an immediate improvement in their condition.

Weaknesses:

  • Only treats symptons not the cause-underlying problem not addressed, therefore symptoms may redevelop once the patient stops taking the drugs.
  • Side Effects and Problems of Dependancy- long term users may become addicted, old MAOI'S caused symptoms similiar to Parkinsons- shaking.
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Biological Treatment: ECT

  • treatment for severe depression
  • 2-3 times a week for 6-8 weeks
  • involves giving the patient muscle relaxant drugs and then attaching electrodes to the skull and passing an electirical current through the brain.
  • induces an epileptic type seizure

Strengths:

  • 60-70% effective in treating depression-therefore valid treatment
  • Suitable for severe cases- often successful when drugs dont work.

Weaknesses:

  • Unethical-issues of lack of informed consent-severe patients may not be in a position to give this, also may cause memory loss issues.
  • Unknown how it actually works- only believed that electrical impulses stimulate neurotransmitters.
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Behavioural Approach

Main Assumption

All behaviour is learnt, therefore all abnormal behaviour is learnt aswell.

Key Features

Classical Conditioning-behaviour is learnt through making associations, based on the principles of Pavlov's dog experiment- dog drooled at the site of food, food is paired with a bell, and eventually the dog associates just the bell with food, and drools when only the bell is present.

Operant Conditioning-behaviour is learnt through positive reinforcements (rewards)/ negative reinforcements (remove negative state) and punishments.

Social Learning- behaviour learnt through observing a model's behaviour and imitating (copying) their actions.

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Evaluation of the Behavioural Approach

Strengths:

  • Suggests behaviour can be unlearnt-maladaptive behaviour can be replaced with adaptive behaviour, therefore abnormality can easily be treated
  • Research Support- Classical Conditioning is supported by Little Albert Experiment- the infant became scared of the rat  when it was paired with loud music- makes the approach more reliable.

Weaknesses:

  • Reductionist- ignores biological and thought processes which may also be responsible for causing abnormal behaviour, therefore less valid.
  • Doesnt address cause of the abnormal behaviour, therefore the underlying problem is not addressed.
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Behavioural Treatment: Systematic Desensitisation

  • patient and therapist devise hierarchy of increasingly stressful situations relating to a phobia.
  • E.g. for a fear of mice, the hierarchy might begin with seeing a picture of a mouse, and work up to holding a real mouse.
  • patient is taught relaxation techniques at each stage, therefore, at most stressful stage (climax of hierarchy) patient feels relaxed.

Strengths:

  • 75 % effective in treating phobias, valid treatment
  • Quicker than talking therapies such as Psychoanalysis

Weaknesses:

  • Only suitable for treating phobias, not disorders such as depression
  • Doesnt address underlying cause, phobia may redevelop
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Other Behavioural Treatments: Flooding and Token E

Flooding- based on Classical Conditioning

  • client is placed straight into most stressful situation E.g.someone with a fear of heights placed on top of a tall building.
  • theory is that distress cannot be maintained for a prolonged period and therefore patient eventually calms down and copes with the fear.
  • Strength- Instigates coping strategies which can be used in the future
  • Weakness- Unethical-possible psychological harm and distress to patient

Token Economy- based on Operant Conditioning

  • patient given tokens for displaying desired/ adaptive behaviour, rather than undesired/maladaptive behaviour.
  • builds up to be exchanged for a reward- somethig the patient wants
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Cognitive Approach

Main Assumption

All behaviour is a result of automatic thought processes and therefore all abnormal behaviour is a result of abnormal of maladapative thinking.

Key features

Negative Thinking (Beck)- based on Beck's Cognitive Triad- negative views of oneself, the world and the future- leads to depression.

Irrational Thinking (Ellis)-catastrophising events and drawing illogical conclusions leads to emotional disturbance and anxiety disorders.

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Evaluation of the Cognitive Approach

Strengths:

  • Attempts to explain invisible thought processes which other approaches do not address
  • Research Support- evidence of maladaptive thinking found in sufferers of depression- makes it more valid.

Weaknesses:

  • Consequence not cause- cause of maladaptive thinking not explained- doesnt say why people have negative or irrational thoughts.
  • Blames the individual-depression seen as the result of "indulging" in negative thoughts
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Cognitive Treatment: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

  • aims to challenge irrational thinking, and to alter the way people think about themselves, the world and the the future
  • based on the ABC Model
  • Activating Events-cause of thoughts are identified
  • Beliefs-are challenged as to why they have these beliefs
  • Consequences- to see that irrational thinking has negative consequences and that more rational thinking has positive outcomes.

Strengths:

  • Changes thought processes- therefore long term cure
  • Ethical-both client and therapist work together

Weaknesses:

  • Hard to change long term thought processes that have been lifelong
  • Time Consuming- takes time to see improvement/ begin to think differently
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Psychodynamic Approach

Main Assumption

All behaviour is a result of unconscious conflict within the Psyche or due to childhood experiences, therefore all abnormal behaviour is a result of unresolved unconscious conflict or negative childhood experiences.

Key Features

Id-part of the unconscious mind, the selfish drive for attention and gratification, it is present from birth (E.g. a baby cries for attention), if dominant then behaviour is aggressive.

Ego-part of conscious mind which mediates demands of Id/Superego, develops age 2

Superego- part of unconscious mind, internal moral standards which develop age 5/6, if dominant then behaviour is obsessive and can cause anxiety disorders.

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Evaluation of the Psychodynamic Approach

Strengths:

  • Influential-led to first talking therapies which aimed to identify cause of abnormal behaviour, rather than just treating symptoms.
  • Negative childhood experiences found to influence behaviour of sufferers of depression- more valid

Weaknesses:

  • Theoretical Constructs-cannot scientifically determine existence of Id, Ego and Superego-less valid
  • Doesn't explain effect of positive childhood experiences on behaviour
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Psychodynamic Treatment: Psychoanalysis

  • attempt to "gain insight" into unconscious conflict within the Psyche
  • Projective Tests- patient asked to give instant response to ambiguous ink blot pattern, pause indicates conflct
  • Word Association- patient asked to give instant response to given word, pause indicates conflict
  • Dream Analysis- therapist has to interpret the manifest content of the dream (symbols that the dream emerges as) and convert them to latent content (true meaning of the dream) to gain insight.

Strengths:

  • 80% effective-helps majority- valid treatment
  • Addresses underlying cause of problem by gaining insight

Weaknesses:

  • Time Consuming- takes many sessions, not suitable for severe cases
  • Unethical-may involve reliving distressing events- psychological harm
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