Biological Approach


Drug Therapy:

  • Biological psychologists explain all behaviour is in our biological make-up. 
  • Assumes psychological disorders - depression, anxiety, schizophrenia - psychological causes. 
  • Medical model - based on view mental illnesses can be treated with a physical cause. 
  • Physical cause characterised by clusters of symptoms and treated in a physical way. 
  • Medical model recommends a patient should be treated through direct manipulation of physical bodily processes - drug therapy. - Evolutionary influences.
  • Changes in neurotransmitters affect mood, feelings, perceptions, behaviour. Psycotherapeutic drugs can alter actions of neurotransmitters and treat mental disorders. Drug therapy increases or blocks actions of neurotransmitters in brain which influences thoughts and actions. - Neurotransmitters.
  • Localisation of brain function - drugs target specific regions of the brain involved in psychological disorders. The limbic system regulates emotions, disturbances in brain may affect mood. 

Sympathetic nervous system:

When a person is scared their sympathetic nervous system is aroused so that the person is ready to deal with a potentially dangerous situation. 'Fight or flight' response - because people and animals respond to such situations by fighting adrenaline or noradrenaline which create all the physiological symptoms you have experienced when scared or anxious. Heart beats rapidly, mouth goes dry, feel sweaty - all parts of sympathetic arousal. 

Antipsychotic drugs:

  • Treat psychotic mental disorders - schizophrenia.
  • Patient has lost touch with reality, little insight into condition.
  • Conventinal antipsychotics used primarily to combat positive symptoms of schizophrenia. (Delusions, hallucinations).
  • Drugs block action of neurotransmitter dopamine in brain. Bind to but don't stimulate dopamine receptors. 
  • Atypical antipsychotic drugs act by only temporarily occupying dopamine receptors, then rapidly disaccociating to allow normal dopamine transmissions.
  • May explain why such atypical antipsychotics have lower levels of side effects (tardive dyskinesia - involuntary movements of mouth and tongue), compared with conventional antipsychotics. 

Antidepressant drugs: 

  • Depression is thought to be due to insufficient amounts of neurotransmitters e.g. serotonin being prodcued in nerve endings (synapse). 
  • normal brains - neurotransmitters constantly released from nerve endings stimulating neighbouring neurons. 
  • To terminate action, neurotransmitters are reabsorbed into nerve endings, broken down by an enzyme. 
  • Antidepressants work either by reducing rate of reabsorbtion or by blocking the enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitters. 
  • Both mechanisms increase amount of neurotransmitter available to excite neighbouring cells. 
  • Most commonly prescribed antidepressants - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) e.g. Prozac. Work by blocking transporter mechanism that reabsorbs serotonin into presynaptic cell after it has fired. - More serotonin left in the synapse, prelonging its activity and making transmission of the nerve impulse easier. 

Antianxiety drugs:

  • Group of drugs most commonly used to treat anxiety and stress - Benzodiazapenes (BZs). 
  • sold under various names - Librium, Valium, BZs slow down the activity of the central nervous system. 
  • They do this by enhancing the activity of GABA - a biochemical substance, the body's form of anxiety relief. 


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