Biological Approach

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Outline; biological approach

All abnormal behaviour physical, based in the body. Chemicals: Imbalance of neurochemicals. Infection: viral e.g. mum has influenza when pregnant, leads to increased risk of schizophrenia. Genetics: Inherit tendency towards abnormality e.g. 1st degree relative has schizophrenia, risk increases. Environmental factors: Brain damage due to trauma. Psychological disorders illnesses affecting nervous system. Removes all psychological blame for behaviour from patient; cannot help the way they behave. Abnormal thinking, behaviour or emotions; biological dysfunctions. Understanding mental illness, what wrong with brain. Treated by understanding how brain functions normally. 

Serotinin; Low levels linked to depression, anxiety and OCD. Dopamine; Parkinson's disease- death of dopamine producing cells in substantianigra. Hormones; chemical messengers secreted in bloodstream, control some nervous system functions. Cortisol; Chronic stress- high levels produced by adrenal cortex. Insulin; Diabetes inability of cells in pancreas to produce insulin. Genes; inherited from parents. Psychological disorders more frequent in identical twins than non-identical, disorders run in families; schizophrenia, autism, addiction depression. Infection; Infections, such as meningitis, can lead to abnormal brain functioning. Toxicity; Cause of transgenderism in males- high levels of prenatal exposure to dioxins in pesticides.

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Evaluate; biological approach

More humane explanation, disorder has physical cause- no blame attached. Cause recognised as being outside patient’s control, i.e. genetics. Effective treatments; treatments successful, drug therapy- widely used to treat a range of common psychopathologies. Based on medical model, psychological evidence, well established scientific principles form basis. Support for foundations on which the research and subsequent claims are made. Classification system based on medical model, symptoms, provide diagnosis/treatment, good level of reliability.  2 doctors follow same outline, same symptoms, should give same diagnosis to patient.

Rosenhan’s study questioned reliability- ‘normal’ patients classified as insane by several psychiatrists.  Questions the reliability/validity of systems which biological model is based. Complex mental illnesses are biological in origin- reductionist; reducing complex human behaviour to one single cause, exclusion of all others. Explaining in terms of biology removes responsibility from individual, result in ‘giving up’ on overcoming their conditions. Only treat symptoms of disorder, prevent underlying causes being dealt with.  Result in relapse or increased dependency. Labelling; ethical concern in relation to the ‘label’ a mental illness diagnosis can have on an individual and the social stigma that this may entail for them in different areas of their life.  

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