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  • Created on: 16-06-17 11:44

1 - Defintions

1. Statistical infrequency

To define anything as ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’, we can record the number of times we observe it. It suggests a person’s trait, thinking or behaviour is classified as abnormal if it is rare or statistically unusual.  Based on how frequently behaviour occurs. Abnormality is when a person behaves in a way the majority does not.

An example of this is Normal Distribution on IQ. Most of the scores are in the middle, scores on either sides of the slope, the further from 100, are the infrequency.

2. Deviation from social norms

Social norms are approved or accepted ways of behaving in a society. Behaviour is defined as abnormal if it offends their sense of what is ‘acceptable’ or the norm. It suggests people who break or reject the social norms behave in a socially deviant way.

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3. Failure to function adequately

An individual is abnormal if they are unable to cope with day to day living. Rosenham & Seilgman suggested 6 features of abnormality.  These include: personal distress, maladaptive behaviour, unpredictability, irrationality, violation of moral and ideal standards, and observer discomfort.

4. Deviation from ideal mental health

This judge’s mental health in the same way it judges physical health, a person requires certain attributes to be mentally healthy. Jahoda found 6 categories for desirable mental health.  A positive attitude towards yourself, striving for your true potential development and growth, being independent, resistance to stress, environmental mastery of all areas in life, accurate perception of reality.

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2 - Characteristics


This is an extreme, irrational fear leading to intense anxiety and avoidance, the fear also leads to a disruption of normal life.

Emotional – fear is marked, persistent, excessive and unreasonable. This creates anxiety and unpleasant high arousal.

Behavioural – fear = avoidance which interferes with life. Panic as a response to the object. Alternative is endurance, where they remain in its presences, causing extended high anxiety.

Cognitiveirrational thinking, generally they know their fear is excessive or unreasonable. Cognitive distortion and selective attention.  

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Is a mood disorder that makes everything seem harder to do and seem pointless. People can feel suicidal and give up.   

Emotional – 5 symptoms: sadness, worthless, hopeless, feeling despair and reduced self-esteem.

Behavioural – reduced energy or the opposite of psychomotor agitation. Some have hypersomnia or insomnia. Some are aggressive or self-harm.

Cognitive – negative thought and negative self-belief, negative view of the world and worthlessness. Known as Absolute thinking. Also poor concentration.

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This is an anxiety disorder where an obsession (persistent thoughts) leads to a compulsion (repetitive behaviour)

Emotional – anxiety and distress, they are aware behaviour is excessive and often this causes embarrassment and shame, guilt and disgust. It is often accompanied by depression.

Behavioural – compulsive behaviours are repetitive and people feel they must perform them to reduce anxiety. Sufferers tend to avoid situations that cause the OCD.

Cognitive – obsessions are recurrent intrusive thoughts or impulses. They can be hypervigilance (constantly tense and ‘on guard’) or catastrophic (thinking about irrational worst-case outcomes).

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3 - Phobias

The behavioural approach believes that phobias are learnt, Mowrer proposed the model and said that phobias are acquired through classical conditioning and maintained via operant conditioning.  

  1. Learning a phobia by Classical Conditioning

Phobias are caused by learning to associate fear with a particular object or experience. Learning to associate something with which we initially had no fear with something that already triggers a fear response. E.g. Little Albert and white rats.

CC and generalisation – if a slightly different conditional stimulus is presented and the conditional response still occurs, the response is generalised.

CC and extinction – a learned response can be unlearned

CC and discrimination – when a learned response is only shown to one stimulus rather that to similar ones

Spontaneous recovery – when a conditioned response that has disappeared by extinction suddenly re-appears.

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Phobias and Treatment

2. Maintaining a phobia by Operant Conditioning

 Positive reinforcement – the fear response can be rewarded by attention from family and friends.

Negative reinforcement – avoiding a feared stimulus means we don’t feel anxious, so we continue to avoid it.


Systematic desensitisation – get rid of phobias via CC by replacing fear with relaxation. Step 1: the client learns deep relaxation techniques, step 2: they create a hierarchy of fears, step 3: gradual exposure to the fear working up the hierarchy.

Flooding – immediate exposure to a person’s phobia without any gradual build-up. The person becomes very anxious very quick, but they have to remain in its presence and they quickly learn the stimulus is harmless.

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4 - Depression

The Cognitive approach – stresses the role of fault and irrational thinking.

Beck: the Cognitive Triad – depression stems from unrealistic, distorted, negative or irrational thoughts about oneself, others or environment. As the three components interact, they interfere with normal cognitive thinking and lead to impairments in perception, memory and problem solving. Becks model also includes misinterpretations that overlay negative and self-defeating thoughts, such as: selective thinking, over-generalisation, catastrophizing and personalising.

Ellis: ABC model – depression is a result of irrational thoughts. His model explains how irrational thinking affects us. It is the irrational belief about an activating event, not the event itself that causes behavioural consequences.

A – Activating event

B - Belief

C - Consequence

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Depression and Treatment

  1. REBT – rational emotive behaviour therapy – focuses on challenging or disputing irrational beliefs and replacing them with effective, rational beliefs. It extends the ABC model to ABCDE (Dispute & Effect). Methods of disputing include:  logical disputing, empirical disputing and pragmatic disputing. Effective disputing allows a move from catastrophism to a more rational interpretation leading to increased self-acceptance.

  2. Beck’s Negative Triad – therapists identify and challenge automatic thoughts about the 3 components. Beck emphasised recognising and changing negative thoughts and beliefs. Once identified, these thoughts must be challenged. They test the reality of the beliefs, using the ‘patient as scientist’ method where client does H/W like recoding when they receive a compliment.

Cognitive therapist helps recognition of thoughts and errors in logic. They guide people to question and challenge dysfunctional beliefs and try new interpretations and apply alternative ways of thinking.

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5 - OCD

The biological approach – OCD is the result of physiological cause linked to:

1. Genetic Inheritance- Genetic code is also responsible for behavioural characteristic, including mental disorders. OCD appears to be polygenic (caused by several genes).

SERT Gene – (serotonin transporter) is mutated in those with OCD, the mutation causes an increase in transporters proteins at the neuron membrane. This then leads to an increase in serotonin reuptake, which decreases the level of serotonin.

COMT Gene – regulates the function of dopamine. This gene is also mutated in OCD sufferers; this causes the opposite effect to the SERT. It causes s decrease in the COMT activity and therefore gives a higher level of dopamine

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2. Neural ExplanationOCD may be caused by low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, based on the finding OCD can be relieved using anti-depressant drugs, those which increase levels of serotonin in the brain. OCD could be caused by disruption to serotonin levels which has a knock on effect on regulating the levels of other neurotransmitters such a GABA and dopamine.

  • Other areas of the brain have been implicated in OCD. The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) converts sensory info into thoughts, which sends this info to the basal Ganglia which normally supresses irrelevant or unimportant info. If the BG is damaged, the info passes onto the thalamus, which makes us take action.  This creates a ‘worry circuit.’ If inappropriate information is not suppressed by the BG we will be overwhelmed by troublesome thoughts.  It is thought a person with OCD, does not have a functioning BG, so the OFC messages will bypass that and go to the thalamus which makes us act.
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OCD & Treatment

Drug Therapy

SSRIS’S – increasing levels of serotonin may normalise and reduce the OCD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors block the re-uptake of serotonin in the brain. This enables serotonin to remain active at the synapse and continue to stimulate post-synaptic neuron, reducing anxiety.

Other drugs include tricyclics and anti-depressants.

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