Treating Psychological Abnormality

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Drug Therapy (Chemotherapy)

  • Drug therapy is the most common way of treating mental disorders. Even though other therapies may be used, drugs will often be used alongside these therapies as well
  • It is based on the assumption that mental disorders are created by an underlying biological process, in particular, a chemical imbalance in the body. There are several different categories of drugs

1. Anti-Anxiety Drugs - Used to treat anxiety and stress disorders. For instance benzodiazepines are a set of drugs used to reduce anxiety e.g. Valium. They do this by increasing the neurotransmitter called GABA. GABA naturally calms brain activity and thus has a relaxation effect. It also reduces levels of seratonin which is a natural stimulant

2. Anti-Depressant Drugs - Used to treat depression. For instance, MAOI (monoamine0oxidase inhibitors) block the action of a certain enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter seratonin, so the natural stimulant seratonin is increased which in turn reduces symptoms of depression

3. Anti-Psychotic Drugs - Used to treat people suffering from psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions often found in those suffering from schizophrenia. For instance, chlorpromazine reduces the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, which has been associated with these psychotic symptoms

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Drug Therapy (Chemotherapy)

Evaluation of Drug Therapy

  • Research has shown drug therapy is effective in treating many mental disorders and has allowed many people suffering severe symptoms to live more adjusted, happy lives
  • Taking drugs provides a simple, fast acting solution which requires little effort from the sufferer when compared to other treatments
  • Drugs focus on relieving the symptoms of the mental distress. However in many cases, when the drug treatment ceases, the symptoms reappear suggesting drugs are addressing the true cause of the problem
  • Many drugs have bad side effects which can often be worse than the actual mental distress itself
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Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

  • ECT is mostly use for those suffering with severe depression where other treatments have not been successful
  • The person is strapped to a bed and two electrodes are attached to the head on the non-dominant hemisphere. The person is injected with barbiturate to induce unconsciousness and a muscle relaxant
  • Then, a small electronic current of 0.6 amps is passed through the brain for less than a second which induces a full body seizure lasting around one minute
  • It is unclear exactly how ECT improves symptoms, but it is thought that it affects levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, especially seratonin

Evaluation of ECT

  • ECT offers a quick way to reduce depressive symptoms, even quicker than drug therapy
  • Research has show that ECT is effective in reducing symptoms. Comer stated that 60-70% of ECT parients see improvement after ECT. However, there is a very high relapse rate
  • ECT can have negative side effects such as memory loss, headaches, and cardiovascular changes
  • No one knows exactly how ECT works and if there are any long term risks
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  • A therapy used by psychodynamic therapists. The therapist aims to allow their clients to uncover hidden, unconscious desires, impulses or repressed traumatic memories that are responsible for their abnormal symptoms
  • It is believed that once the client can better understand what is going on in their unconscious mind, they can better deal with it. They do this through a combination of techniques

1. Free-Association: The client is encouraged to speak whatever comes into their mind without self censorship, no matter how strange. The therapist then pieces together and interprets their client's thoughts which are then discussed with the client

2. Dream Analysis:Freud believed that dreams reveal unconscious impulses and repressed memories. By analysing the symbols present in the dreams, it allows the therapist to interpret these unconscious impulses and repressed memories which are then discussed with the client

3. Projective Tests: This is a type of personality test in which the client offers responses to ambiguous scenes, words or images. These projective tests were intended to uncover unconscious desires that are hidden from conscious awareness

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Evaluation of Psychoanalysis

  • Freud developed psychoanalysis through
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Systematic De-sensitisation (SD)

  • Behaviourism believes that all behaviour, including abnormal behaviour is learned and therefore beleives that abnormal behaviour can also be reversed through training and conditioning
  • SD is a treatment used to treat phobias and anxiety disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The treatment involves several steps;

1. The client learns deep relaxation techniques

2. The client and therapist create an anxiety heirarchy of the feared stimulus, so if the client has a phobia of spiders, the lowest level of fear would be to look at a picture of a spider and the highest level of fear would be holding a spider

3. In step three, the client starting with the lowest level of anxiety on the hierarchy, employs their relaxation technique while exposing themselves to the anxiety stimulus. Once they can expose themselves without fear, they move up to the next level on the hierarchy until the phobia is completely eradicated

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Systematic De-sensitisation

Evaluation of Systematic De-sensitisation

  • Research has shown that SD is very effective at treating phobias. McGrath et al (1990) found that 75% of people with phobias responded well to SD
  • SD focuses on learned association and seeks to recondition the fear. In doing so, SD ignores any deeper underlying psychological or emotional issues that may be involved in the phobia or OCD
  • SD takes a relatively long time to treat a phobia or OCD compared to other behavioural treatments. For instance, a treatment called flooding exposes the client to the fear stimulus without any graded steps so is a much faster treatment and many would argue is just as effective
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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

  • CBT is based on the cognitive approach and is often used to treat depression and addiction. It seeks to identify distorted negative thought patterns within the client, challange these patterns and then ultimately replace them with more positive, realistic ones
  • Ellis developed the ABC technique where A is the activating event, B is the beliefs of the client and C is the concequence of their thinking 
  • The client is asked to identify event (A) that has led to distorted negative thinking, such as failing an exam. Then the client is asked to analyse the thoughts (B) that arose as a result of this event. Then, the client is asked to discuss the emotional, behavioural and cognitive result of these thoughts such as the desire to leave college
  • Using this technique, the therapist can demonstrate to their client that their thoughts were distorted and overly negative and how their distorted thinking has led to their mental distress. After this they can then train their client to be more positive and realistic in their thinking. For instance if the client had previously thought they were stupid and thick after failing their exam, they could be trained to think 'the exam was unusually hard and I did not revise hard enough' 
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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Evaluation of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

  • A lot of research has shown that CBT is a very effective therapy. For instance Smith and Glass (1977) did a meta-analysisof therapies and found that CBT has the second highest success rate out of 10 different therapies
  • CBT attempts to deal with the cause of the mental disorder, not just the symptoms of it. Therefore it offers a long term solution for dealing with mental distress that other therapies such as drug therapy may not offer
  • CBT is not appropriate for all mental disorders such as schizophrenia as the client has to has the ability to rationalise and talk about their thoughts and feelings 
  • CBT may take a long time to complete
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