Definitions of Abnormality

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Deviation from Social Norms

Deviation From Social Norms

Social Norms are explicit and implicit rules that society has about what are acceptable behaviours, values and beliefs.

Explicit: Rules which, if broken would mean breaking the law (ie: theft, indecent exposure)

Implicit: Unspoken rules that are agreed as a matter of convention within a particular society (ie: dressing smart at a funeral)

If an individual does not adhear to these social norms they are considered to be abnormal

If a person deviated significantly they are considered to be abnormal

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Failure to Function Adequately

Failure to Function Adequately

People with psychological disorders experience distress and a general inability to cope with everyday tasks and demands (ie: housework and going to work).

If people are unable to cope with normal demands of everyday life, they are considered to be abnormal

Failure to function adequately is common among those with mental disorders. This is the definition used to disagose mental disorders by doctors, psychologists, and mental health profesisonals.

Doctors use DSM-V which contains Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF)

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Features of Failure to Function

Feautures of Failure to Function:

  • Personal Distress - common in depression & anxiety disorders
  • Meladaptive Behaviour - behaviour stopping life goals
  • Unpredictability - unexpected behaviours
  • Irrationality - behaviour that can't be explained
  • Observer discomfort - behaviour that makes other poeple uncomfortable
  • Violation of moral standards - violating society's moral standards
  • Unconventionality - unconventional behaviour
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Deviation from Ideal Mental Health

Deviation from Ideal Mental Health

There are six characteristics set out by Johoda of the Ideal Mental Health:

  • positive attitudes towards self
  • self-actualisation of one's potential
  • resistance to stress using coping strategies
  • personal autonomy - not dependent
  • accurate perception of reality
  • adapting to & mastering the environment

If an individual lacks these characteristics they are considered to be abnormal

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Cultural Relativism

Cultural Relativism

Deviation from Social Norms: Social Norms vary within and across cultures so it can be difficult to know if they've been broken.

Failure to Function Adequately: What is considered as "Normal Functioning" varies between cultures.

Ideal Mental Health: Some types of abnormality only exist in certain cultures. Criteria from one culture can't be used to judge other people from different cultures.

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LIMITATIONS of Deviation from Social Norms

LIMITATIONS of Deviation from Social Norms

Role of Context: When deciding if behaviour is abnormal it is importnat to take the situation into account. Out of context, certain behaviours may seem bizarre. (Using a Knife & Fork in McDonalds/Restaurant)

Norms Change over Time: What is considered as socially acceptable nowadays may not have been in the past (50 years ago, homosexuality was frowned upon)

Eccentric/Abnormal: Those who don't adhear to normsl may not be mentally unhealthy, just a bit quirky or eccentric, (ie: Lady GaGa)

Criminal/Abnormal: Those who don't adhear to explicit social norms (breaking the law) aren't neccessarily abnormal, even if their behaviour is criminal

Cultural Relativism: What is socially acceptable in one culture may be completely different in other cultures, (lip plates in Africa)

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LIMITATIONS of Failure to Function

LIMITATIONS of Failure to Function

Exceptions to the Rule: Abnormality isn't always accompanied by failure to function with many psycopathic individuals appearing completely normal (ie: Harold Shipman). Many individuals may fail to function, but are not abnormal (ie: students at exam time)

Direction of Causality: Inability to cope with demands or failure to function may be the CAUSE of the mental disorder, rather than the outcome (ie: life events may mean individuals can't function properly, which leads to depression or anxiety)

Method of Disagnosis OR Definition: Many argue that failure to function to not a true defintition of abnormality, but more of a way of determining the extent of a persons problems

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LIMITATIONS of Deviation from Ideal Mental Health

LIMITATIONS of Deviation from Ideal Mental Health

Difficulty meeting all criteria: Highly unlikely that all individuals will meet all of Jahoda's criteria all of the time. At somepoint, everyone would be abnormal, which makes the definition uesless (ie: unlikely all individuals have a positive view of themselves & few people reach their full potential)

How to measure self-actualisation: Self-actualisation cannot be measured & can't be operationalised. We will never really know if/when someone ever self-actualises & consequently whether they are normal or not.

Stress can be a good thing: Stress may acutaly have positive benefits. Some people work more efficiently in moderately stressful situation.

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