AQA A Psychology - Abnormality

  • Definitions of Abnormality
  • Models/Approaches
  • Treatments
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Definitions of Abnormality

Deviation from Ideal Mental Health 

Psychologists have a list of characteristics of what would be considered normal. a person is deemed abnormal if they deviate from the list.

  • Positive veiw of self
  • capability for growth and development
  • Autonomy and independence
  • Accuraty perception of reality

Limitations

  • Cultural relativism - what is considered ideal varies across time and culture
  • Very few meet would meet all the criteria for ideal mental health
  •  Mentally healthy might percieve things to be fine when they might not be - this is not accurate. Depression is the only mental illness in which a person has accurate perception of reality.
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Definitions of Abnormality

Deviation from Social Norms

A person's thinking or behaviour is classified as abnormal if it goes against the (unwritten) rules about what is expected and acceptable in society

Limitations

  • Cultural relativism - social norms vary with culture and time
  • For example, in france its the norm to kiss when greeting someone. or in Africa where the women do not wear shirts.
  • Classification of abnormality can only be explained in context in which it occurs
  • jumping out of a window may seem abnormal but put into context, if there was a fire and that was the only way out, that would be perfectly acceptable.
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Definitions of Abnormality

Failure to Function Adequately

There's a practical criteria used to define inadequate functioning. if behaviour interferes with daily life, according to this criteria, it may be considered abnormal.

  • Maladaptiveness
  • Vividness & unconventionality
  • Loss of control
  • Irrationality/incomprehensibilty

Limitations

  • Most people may have difficulty carrying out their every day lives at some point, this does not necessarily mean they're abnormal.
  • When a person is greiving they're often unable to function adequately
  • Many people engage in behaviour thats maladaptive/ harmful or threatening to themselves but we do not class them as abnormal
  • People who go skydiving or paragliding are not considered abnormal
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Models of Abnormality

Biological

Key Features

  • All mental disorders have a physical cause e.g. genes, brain structure, brain chemicals etc.
  • Treatment involves drugs to alter balance of brain chemicals
  • Mental illnesses are diagnosed in the same way as physical illnesses, in terms of a cluster of symptoms

Evaluation

  • Offers people a role, and treatments they are familiar with
  • Encourages them to be passive and hand over control of their lives to expert
  • Biological processes are beyond patients control; not blamed for behaviour
  • Society isolates and stigmatises the mentally ill
  • Model lead to drug therapies with effectively control symptoms
  • When drugs are discontinued, symptoms often return
  • Lots of evidence to show mental illness is linked with biological changes
  • Often impossible to tell whether such changesare cause or effect
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Models of Abnormality

Psychodynamic

Key Features

  • Psychological disorders are caused by emotional problems in the unconscious mind
  • The causes of emtional problems are usually linked with childhood
  • Relationship between parent and child is crucial to mental health
  • Mental illness can be caused by an imbalance between the ID, EGO and SUPEREGO

Evaluation

  • First theory to focus of importance of childhood
  • Blames parents for mental illness - consequence of childhood experiences
  • Importance of unconscious was recognised - explains repressed memories
  • Often accused of being deterministic - we have no control over adult life
  • Many of it is based in inconscious so cannot be proven right or wrong
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Models of Abnormality

Cognitive

Key Features

  • Abnormaliy caused by faulty thinking - inaccurate perception of reality
  • The individual is in control
  • Treatment involves changing faulty thinking to make it more positive

Evaluation

  • We are in control and can cure ourselves
  • Offers very successful treatment (CBT) for some conditions
  • Very positive, forward thinking model
  • Ignores unerlying causes
  • Unclear if faulty thinking is cause or effect
  • Blames the idividual
  • Some negative thoughts can be rational
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Models of Abnormality

Behavioural

Key Features

  • All behaviour (including abnormal) is learnt through conditioning (classical - association, Operant - reinforcement)
  • Only behaviour that can be observed is important
  • Same laws apply to human and non-human behaviours
  • All behaviour can be unlearnt using same method as waas learnt

Evaluation

  • Scientifically tested
  • Lots of research evidence - mainly on animals
  • Treatments can be successful (CBT)
  • Ignores thoughts and emotions
  • Ignores genetics
  • Treats symptoms not cause
  • Too simplistic
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Treatments - Biological

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

  • Mainly used in severly ill patients
  • Electrode placed above each temple, patient is unconscious, given small electric shock, current produces seizure for about a minute
  • ECT given 3 times a week for up to 5 weeks

Evaluation

  • Can be life saving to suicidal patients
  • 60-70% effective
  • Seems to restart the brain
  • Sham ECT can work too (placebo) suggesting attention is important - not actually treatment that workds, just thoughts that they've had treatment
  • 84% relapse within 6 months
  • Side effects - memory problems, headaches, anxiety and even death
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Treatments - Biological

Drugs

Antidepressants

  • Lower activity of neurotransmitter, Serotonin
  • Most common antidepressants (SSRI's) reduce the reuptake of serotonin i.e. make serotonin hand around in synapse longer

Antimanics

  • Used to treat bipolar depression
  • Still unknown how they work in reducing mania
  • Many patients relucant to take lithium as they enjoy the feeling of mania

Antianxiety

  • Benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium)
  • Used for OCD, social anxiety, eating disorders
  • Slows down activity of central nervous system
  • Increase activity of GABA (natural anxiety relief) making people feel calmer
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Treatments - Biological

Drugs

Antipsychotics

  • Treat symptoms of Schizophrenia (delusions and hallicinations)
  • Schizophreia associated with high levels of dopamine activity
  • Block neurotransmitter, Dopamine, at receptor site
  • reduces amount of dopamine stimulating next neurone

Evaluation

  • Antipsychotics effective in short and long term
  • easy to use, require little effort on part of the patient
  • Most effective if used along side psychological treatment
  • Not always effective e.g. some antidepressants dont really work
  • Hands over responsibility to 'expert' (encourages passivity)
  • All drugs have side effects e.g. SSRI's cause insomnia and nausea
  • treats symptoms, not cause
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Treatments - Psychological

Psychoanalysis

  • Based in psychodynamic model - repressed conflicts
  • Aims to bring unconscious thoughts into conscious mind so patients can deal with them

Techniques

  • Free association - saying whatever comes to mind
  • Word association - responding to word therapist reads out
  • Dream analysis
  • Projective test - reporting what they see in ambiguous pictures
  • Transference - treating therapist as despised person

Evaluation

  • Most effective for milder anxiety or depression
  • Works best if patient is prepared to open up and verbalise thoughts
  • Can cause false memories - just what been told by parents
  • Based on theories which lack evidence
  • Time consuming and expensive
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Treatments - Psychological

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

  • Based on cognitive and behavioural models
  • Irrational thoughts influence behaviour and vice versa, so both must be changed for effective treatment
  • Cognitive - make irrational thoughts rational
  • Behavioural make patients do everday tasks to prove irrational beliefs wrong

Evaluation

  • Successful in treating a range of disorders
  • Gives tools so patient can treat themselves (Lifelong)
  • Useful for whole population, not just mentally ill (e.g. anxiety before exams)
  • Treats symptoms not cause
  • Requires continual effort on part of client
  • Environment is still beyond patients control
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Treatments - Psychological

Systematic Desensitisation

  • Based on behavioural model - behvaiour can be unlearnt
  • Maladaptive behaviour is deconditioned by learning new association

Technique

  • Patient learns to relax
  • Patient visualises or is placed in fearful situation and learns to relax
  • Gradual exposure following hierarchy of fearful situations

Evaluation

  • Most effective in disorders where anxiety is main problem
  • 75% effective in treating phobias
  • Relatively quick (6-8 sessions)
  • Involves clients being placed in very stressful situations
  • Not successful in phobias with evoluationary basis (i.e. fear of wild animals)
  • Doesn't treat cause of some disorders e.g. Schizophrenia & anorexia
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