Psychology PSYA2 - abnormality


Definitions of Abnormality

Deviation from social norms, society has implicit and explicit rules for behaviour based on moral standards, if we are percieved to deviate from them we are classed as abnormal.

Failure to Function Adequately is based on how an individual percieves their ability to cope with everyday life, if they experience distress or are suffering due to symptoms they are considered abnormal.

Deviation from Ideal Mental Health, is an individual does not maintain all 6 criterias, e.g. personal growth, proposed by Johada then they are seen as deviating fromm a state of positive mental health classifying them as abnormal.

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Biological Approach

Genetic Inheritance, twins can be compared to see if one has a disorder and whether the other does as well, providing a concordance rate (extent to which two individuals are similar in terms of a particular trait). Concordance rate for schizophrenia = high.

Neurotransmitters, genes tell the body how to function and determine the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters. High levels of serotonin may result in anxiety. Low levels of serotonin may result in depression.

Viral infection, research suggests some disorders may be related to viruses in the womb. Torrey found that mothers of people with schisophrenia contracted a strain of influenza during pregnancy. The virus would have entered the childs brain remaining dormant till puberty.

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... evaluation

There are problems with the approach as there is no evidence that mental disorders are purely caused by genetic inheritance. Gottesman and Shields found that concordance rates for schizophrenia in monozygotic twins was only 50%, if this was entirely the product of genetics then it would've been expected to be 100%. You inherit a susceptibility.

A strength of the biological approach is that is sees abnormality as a physical illness. It is based on well founded sciences e.g. biology and chemistry. These clearly play a part in explaining abnormality.

A weakness of the approach is that it is hard to establish cause and effect between mental illness and brain chemistry. Schizophrenia is commonly associated with an excess of dopamine. However, some studies show reduced levels of dopamine in some brain tissue meaning there could be simultaneous excesses and defficiencies in parts of the brain

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Psychodynamic Approach

Unresolved Conflict Causes Mental Disorders, conflict between the Id and the Superego causes anxiety, the ego protects itself with defences such as repression, regression and denial as well as projection which can cause disturbed behaviour if overused.

Unconcious Motivations, ego defences exert pressure through unconciously motivated behaviour. Memories and information that are hard to recall may lead to distress.

Early experiences cause mental disorders, the ego isn't developed enough to deal with traumas in childhood so they're repressed e.g. death of a parent. Losses in later life may cause you to re-experience earlier loss which could lead to depression.

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... evaluation

It can be argued that Freud's theory is sexist. The theory is unbalanced as it was less well developed for women, perhaps due to the culture of the victorian society. However, changes in modern psychoanalysis has made the approach applicable to women.

It is difficult to prove or disprove Freud's theory. If the individual acts in a predicted manner it's considered to support Freud's theory but if the individual acts in a different way it doesn't reject the theory as is could be due to defense mechanisms. As a result, Freud's theory is unfalsifiable.

The concepts of Id, Ego and Superego are difficult to define. Actions motivated by them are at an unconcious level so there is no way to know for certain they are occuring. As a result, the approach's explanations recieve limited support, relying on evidence from case studies.

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Behavioural Approach

Classical conditioning is learning through association, e.g. phobias - spiders associated with fear or anxiety in the past, becomes a stimulus that provokes a fear response.

Operan condition is learning through reward and reinforcement. If maladaptive behaviour is rewarded a psychological disorder could occur e.g. attention is paid when a child has a panic attack, this could lead to greater frequency and difficulties in later life

Social learning theory is the learning through observation. If we see others rewarded and punished for behaviour we are more likely to copy the rewarding behaviour.

Generalisation, many phobiac responses are a result of generalisation, from a conditioned stimulus, e.g. a fear of rats could create anxiety when around mice etc.

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... evaluation

There is evidence that goes against the claims of the behavioural model. It doesn;t explain why people are unable to identify incidents in their past as conditioning suggests. This shows the approach can't account for all abnormal behaviour.

A weakness is that it offers a limited view. It ignores the role of cognition sugesting other approaches should be considered and a combined cognitive behavioural approach would explain abnormal behaviour better.

It is a convincing explanation of abnormality. It uses well tested forms of learning such as classical and operant conditioning to explain phobias. Treatments based on the approach are effective showing the approach works.

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Cognitive Approach

Abnormality caused by faulty thinking, the cognitive model assumes thinking, expectations and attitudes direct behaviour. It focuses on the way a person thinks about a problem. Faulty and irrational thinking prevents adaptive behaviour. This is reffered to as the ABC model.

ABC model (Ellis, 1962):

A - activating event e.g. a large dog

B - belief e.g. it's harmelss or, its going to attack

C - indifferenceor fear/panic

The individual is in control, the individual is the cause of their own behaviour as we control our own thoughts therefore, abnormality is a product of faulty thinking.

Distortions in the way we process information is implicated in mental disorders. Distortions include; seeing things in black and white, overexaggeration and overgeneralisation.

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... evaluation

It's not clear if beliefs cause disturbance or if mental disorders cause faulty thinking. A depressed individual will develop a negative way of thinking due to the depression rather than the negative thinking causing the depression.It is suggested that the patient is responsible. Life events or family problems may have contributed to the mental disorder. Real causes are overlooked as it simply is in the patients head.

It allows people to promote their psychological well being by changing thought patterns. This helps to reduce (prevent) the stigma of mental illness.

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Biological Therapies

ECT (electro convulsive therapy) is used with severly depressed patietns when there's a risk of suicide. (mediaction and psychotherapy have become ineffective). Electrodes are attached bilaterally or unilaterally on the patients head. The patient is injected with a short acting barbituate to render them unconcious and given a nerve blocking agent to paralyse the muscles. An electric current lasting 1/2 secong induces a minuet long seizure affecting the whole brain. ECT is usually given 3 - 5 times a week with pateints requiring 1 - 15 treatments.

Chemotherapy (drugs), conventional antipsychotics - combat positive symptoms of schizophrenia by blocking the action of dopamine receptors. A typical antipsychotics - temporarily bind to dopamine receptors but rapidly disociate to allow normal dopamine transmission resulting in lower levels of side effects. Antidepressants - increase the amount of neirotransmitter (serotonin) available to excire neighbouring cells by eitherblocking the enxyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter or by reducing the rate of reabsobtion (neurotransmitters are constantly released, stimulating neurons but must be reabsorbed to terminate this action). The most commonly sed are SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) which block the mechanism which reabsorbs serotonin meaning more is left in the synapse prolonging its activity.

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... evaluation

They're effective. The WHO reported that relapse rates after a year were highest when schizophrenics were treated with placebos than actual drugs or drugs with family intervention. Suggesting drugs play an important role even though alone they are less effective.

They ate easy to use. Chemotherapy requires less effort from the user than therapies such as psychoanalysis. However, a combination of chemotherapy and a form of psychotherapy is recommended.

A problem with chemotherapy is that the drugs tackle the symptoms rather than the problem. Drugs offer temporary alteration but once a patient stops taking them its effectiveness stops. Suggesting, in the long term it would be preferable to seek treatment that adresses the problem.

ECT is effective in curing sever depression. It has been deemed effective when other treatments haven't worked (particularly amongst suicidal patients). Therefore, it can be life saving.

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Psychological Therapues

Psychoanalysis is where a therapist seeks to recover repressed memories or unresolved conflicts, bringing them to the conscious mind. 3 methods: 1) Free association - patient expresses all throughts even if they seem unimportant exactly as they occur, revealing areas of conflict bringing to the concious mind repressed memories. 2) Therapist interpretation - the therapist listens drawing tentative conclusins about the cause of the problem. Patients may initially resist e.g. avoid the topic, transference (recreate feelings transfering them onto the therapist). 3) Working through - a client would see their therapist 4-5 times a week which could carry on for a period of a year discussing the same issues over and ver again to gain greater clarity of the causes.

Systematic desensitisation enables indiviuals to overcome their anxieties by learning to relax. Relaxation and fear are incompatible so fear is dispelled. 5 stages: 1) Patient is taught to relax. 2) Therapist and patinet construct a desensitisation hierachy visualising a series of scenes increasing in anxiety. 3) Patient works their way through them while trying to relax completely. 4) Once one step is mastered they can move on. 5) The patient masters the feared situation.

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... continued

REBT (rational emotive behavioural therapy) helps people to understand the consequences of these faulty beliefs trying to make them happier and less anxious. Logical disputing - slef defeating beliefs don't follow logically from available information ( does thinking this way make sence). Empirical disbuting - self defeating beliefs may not be consistent with reality (where is the proof that this belief is accurate). Pragmatic disputing - emphasises the uselessness of the self defeating belief (how is this belief likely to help me).

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