Psychology - Individual Differences

Abnormality Module

  • Created by: Katie
  • Created on: 21-04-09 09:38

Defining Abnormality

Deviation From Ideal Mental Health- If a person deviates from standards set by health care professionals, then they may be seen as mentally unwell, which could indicate deeper psychological problems. Jahoda(1958) set standards for what is deemed normal, including: Self Acceptance, Autonomy, Environmental Competence, Potential For Growth And Development, Accurate Perception Of Reality and Positive Interpersonal Relation. If one or more of these criteria is not met, it might indicate abnormality. The idea that these standards look at signs of good health is more preferable to looking at signs of illness, as it is a positive approach. However the criteria are vague, and may not be applied across cultures.Deviation From Social Norms - Defined in terms of the social norm, the way in which the majority of the population act in social situations. Generally those who are defined as abnormal do not act in a way in which is deemed as socially acceptable. However once again this cannot be applied across cultures, as each culture has its own social norms, so somebody from one culture will act differently from somebody from another culture.Failure To Function Adequately - When a person is no longer able to cope, and cannot carry out basic day to day tasks they can be seen as abnormal. For example they may not be able to hold down a job, socialise with others and generally look after themselves. This must be used carefully as it may actually help a person to cope when dealing with grief etc.

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Criticisms Of Definitions

However all of these definitions are subjective, and each case will be different, meaning the definitions will need to be applied to the individual in different ways. As well as this each culture will have different definitions of what is normal, and therefore what is abnormal. These definitions will therefore need to be carefully applied to other cultures.

As times change, so does what people see as normal to do in a social situations, therefore what may have been seen as deviation from social norms in one period of time will not be in another.,1,Rosenhan (1973) Sane in Insane places - From

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Models Of Abromality - Biological

The biological model assumes that psychological diseases are in fact illness's affecting the brain and nervous system, and by understanding what goes on in the brain we will, in effect be able to treat psychological illness.


* An imbalance of hormones/chemicals in the brain may cause a malfunction

* If the brains structure is changed or damaged in any way, this may, in effect change personality or behaviour.

* It has been suggested that mental illness is an inherited disease (Identical Twin Study, 1972), perhaps located on a chromosome.

* A virus or bacteria may attach to the brain nerves or DNA which alters behaviour.

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Models Of Abnormality - Psychodynamic

The psychodynamic model claims that abnormality is caused by emotional problems in the unconscious mind, which can often be traced back to childhood.

This model claims that the mind can be divided into three categories. The Conscious mind, where our thoughts and perceptions are stored, the Unconscious, where our fears and most traumatic memories are stored, and the Preconscious which the one in between, where our memories and knowledge is stores, and can be retrieved when needed.

This model also says that if the Psyche is out of balance, this can cause abnormality. The psyche consists of the ID which are our basic instincts, the Superego, which is our morality, and the Ego which is the reality. As long as the Ego is in charge a healthy psyche can be achieved, however when one of the other takes charge abnormalities can appear. When the Superego is prominent a Neurotic Psyche becomes apparent, and the person becomes nervous and anxious. A Psychotic Psyche is achieved when the ID takes charge, and sex drink and food all become priority. When the Superego disappears totally, a Psychopathic Psyche appears where the person seeks the same needs as a Psychotic Psyche, however they become oblivious to who they hurt.

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Psychodynamic - continued

Freud also claims that any behaviours which we deem unacceptable, we channel them into more socially acceptable actions. For example Aggression is channeled into Sport.

Psychological disorders are defence mechanisms against emotional problems. Psychological disorders can indicate deep emotional trauma.

For example depression is a defence against aggression against parents, which is then turned back in on one's self. Anxiety is the fear of something unknown, deep in the subconscious.

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Models Of Abnormality - Cognitive

The Cognitive Model Of Abnormality says that psychological disorders are caused by irrational thinking processes and in order to understand behaviour, we must first understand thoughts.

Beck claimed that negative thoughts produce negative moods, possibly leading to depression. In response to this he came up with the Cognitive Triad. The three forms of negative thinking are Self, where the person believes they are worthless, World, where the person believes the world is against them, and finally Future, where the person believes that the Future has nothing to offer.

Some of the thinking errors which can occur are Arbitrary Influence, where the person will draw a conclusion from a distinct lack of evidence. Selective Abstraction, where the person takes detail out of context, and Overgeneralisation, where a person ignores evidence in order to come to a conclusion.

For example Obsesive Compulsives may suffer from irrational thoughts, beleiving that all microbes are harmful, and will cause illness.

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Models Of Abnormality - Behavioural

The Behavioral model of abnormality assumes that we learn abnormal behaviour from our environment. They can be learned by both classical and operate conditioning.

Classical Conditioning is when we learn by association, for example Pavlov's Dogs.

Operate Conditioning is learning by consequence, such as punishment (less likely to repeat) and reinforcement (more likely to repeat).

It is also suggested that we learn from those around us, imitating the behaviours from those we wish to be like, or spent time around.

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