Dysfunctional Behaviour

overview of the subject 

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  • Created by: michaela
  • Created on: 18-11-11 16:55

categorising disorders

Diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM)

  • it is a tool used by health professionals to identify and treat particular disorders. over time some of the categories have changed because of social changes or attitudes.
  • e.g. in 1973 homosexuality mental disorder then in 2005 sexual disorder not specified... it changed according to social change
  • + around 1000 contributions, defintions of dysfunction change with time, specific document for specific population (appropriate) 
  • - may not be appropriate for all 350 million in USA, definitions culturally defined and never a permanany concept

international classification of disease

  • used globally, each disorder given a numerical code, constantly being updated
  • + 10th version, not ethnocentric, covers lots of behaviours and disorders
  • - it suggests that psychological disorders can be categorised like medical disorders. inappropriate for psych disorders? 
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Definitions of dysfunctional behaviour

Rosenhan and Seligman - they decided a way of defining if someone os abnormal

  • statistical infrequency- abnormal behaviours tend to be infrequent
  • deviation from social norm- is the behaviour acceptable at time n place?
  • can the individual funtion in society- they find normal life difficult e.g. not meet other people
  • deviation from ideal mental health- jahoda (1958) said ideal mental health include things like positive view of one self, realistic view of world, etc.

- some peple with phobias may still be able to function e.g. phobia of outdoors... work from home

- all individuals suffer deviation from IMH at some point e.g. low self esteem but are not dysfuntional

+ deviation of the social norm considers different places/cultures/countries

+ it gives detail of the four different things that make you abnormal

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Biases in diagnosis

ford and widiger (1989) -looked at sex bias in diagnosis 

Aim-to investigate if health professionals introduced gender bias in their diagnosis

sample- 266 clinical psychologists (randomly assigned a case history of a patient, some had ASPD and some HPD or both)

procedure- they had to diagnose the illness of them. 7 point scale. cases rated on how much they had each symptom.

findings- unspeicified cases were mostly diagnosed with borderline personality disorder

-ASPD correctly identified in males 42% of the time whereas women 15% 

-ASPD misdiagnosed in males 46% of time and females 15% of time

-HPD correctly diagnosed in females 76% of the time 

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behavioural explanations

watson and rayner 

  • showed how little Albert developed a phobia through classical conditioning 

what they did?

  • at the start the rat made no response 
  • rat presented with loud noise repeatedly 
  • association occurs
  • rat =fear response
  • 5 days later- also presented rabbit, rat, dog, seal fur, cotton wool= negative response 
  • 5 days rat=negative response
  • 1 month later- all stimuli tested and produced negative response
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behaviourist treatment


  • looked at a 9 year old girl called Lucy
  • taught her breathing techniques and imagery techniques to relax
  • Lucy had to rate fear out of 10
  • lucy began to associate the noise with relaxation instead of fear
  • by the end could pop a balloon herself 

+ the data was quantifiable and reliable way of measuring the drop in fear 

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biological explanations

gottesman and shields 

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