Definitions of abnormality evaluation


Statistical infrequency evaluation


  • Real-life application: Can be used in the diagnosis of an intellectual disability disorder. For example, all assessments of patients with mental disorders compare how severe their symptoms are to statistical norms.


  • Fails to distinguish between desirable and undesirable behavior: Statistically speaking, many gifted individuals could be classified as ‘abnormal’ using this definition. Many rare behaviors or characteristics (e.g. left handedness) have no bearing on normality or abnormality.  Some characteristics are regarded as abnormal even though they are quite frequent.  

  • Not everyone benefits from the label: If a person is labelled as ‘abnormal’ it might have a negative effect on the way others and the way they think of themselves. 

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Deviation from social norms


  • Real-life application: Can be used in the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder - the distress to other people resulting in antisocial personality disorder, meaning that there’s a place for deviation from social norms - considering what is ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’.


  • Cultural relativism: Social norms vary from generations all the way to communities, if one cultural group labels another cultural group as ‘abnormal’ because they don’t behave according to their standards - it might cause problems if one culture is living within another culture’s group.

  • Norms can vary over time:  Behavior that would have been defined as ‘normal’ in one era might be  defined as ‘abnormal’ in another. For example drunk driving was once considered acceptable but is now seen as socially unacceptable whereas homosexuality has gone the other way. 

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Failure to function adequately evaluation


  • Patients perspective: Takes the individual's subjective experience into consideration and acknowledges that it’s important. It captures the experience of many individuals who may need help, suggesting that it’s a useful criteria for assessing abnormality - which offers an alternative to the 'sick in the head' individual.


  • Unrealistic: Can be hard to say if someone is really failing to function or if they are just deviating from social norms.  For example, not having a job or a permanent address may be seen as a sign of failure to function -  most people do not meet all the ideals and the criteria may be ideals rather than actualities. If we treat these behaviours as 'failures' of adequate functioning, there’s a risk limiting personal freedom and discriminating against minority groups.

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Deviation from ideal mental health


  • Comprehensive: Covers a broad range of criteria for mental health - covers most reasons why someone would seek help from mental health services.


  • Sets unrealistic high standards for mental health: According to Jahoda’s criteria, very few of us can actually attain the criteria, however probably none of us can keep the criteria for a long time nor at the same time, meaning that we would all be classified as ‘abnormal’ 

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