Defininitions of Abnormality Notes

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  • Created by: Tasleem
  • Created on: 19-01-13 18:13

Definitions of Abnormality

Abnormality is defined as deviating from what is normal or usual.

How to establish 'normal'

1. In statistical terms

2. In social terms

3. Adequate functioning

4. Ideal mental health

Statistical Frequency

The statistical approach is based on the idea that certain behaviours are statistically rare in the population. For example, schizophrenia is suffered by 1 in 100 people and so is statistically rare. We can express the concept of deviation from the majority measure of 'average' distance from the mean. A very unusual bbehaviour will be more than 2 standard deviations from the mean, that is and will be found in less than 5% of the population.

Limitations of Statistical Frequency;

  • The concept of statistical frequency in relation to abnormality communities an important meaning but does not permit us to identify what behaviours require treatment.
  • It overlooks desirability. High anxiety is undersirable however low anxiety can be a desirable trait
  • Who decides how much a behaviour must deviate from the norm before it is will be considereed abnormal
  • Our cut-off point might not apply to another cultural group or age range
  • Som behaviours are not rare but undesirable i.e. depression

Deviation from Social Norms

This definition entails behaviour that does not follow usually accepted patterns. Deviating from social normsl is abnormal and undesirable. Psychopathology can be defined using deviation of social norms.

Limitations of Social Deviance;

  • Social norms are constantly changing
  • Social deviance is defined by the context in which a behaviour occurs
  • Cultural differences are important. In some cultures it is normal to have lots of tattoos and piercings whereas in others it would be frowned upon
  • Social deviency is not always a bad thing
  • Upper class people decide what is normal
  • Szasz (1960) suggested that the concept of mental illness is a myth, used by the state as a means of control

Failure to Function Adequetly

This is a model of abnomality based on an inability to love with day-to-day life caused by psychological distress or discomfort.

According to Rosenhan and Seligman (1989), the most suitable approach to defining mental abnormality may be to identify a set of seven abnormal characteristics. When several are present, then they are sympathetic of abnormality. The fewer features displayed, the more an individual is regarded normal. This approach enables us to do in more terms of degrees of abnormality and normality, rather than whether or not behavior or person is abnormal.  

The seven characeristics are:

1. Suffering - most abnomal individuals report that they are suffering but nearly all normal individuals suffer and grieve when bad things happen, and some abnormal individuals treat other people badly and don't suffer themselves

2. Maladaptive behaviour - prevents an individual from achieving major life goals such as enjoying good relationships or working effectively

3. Vividness - The ways abnormal people behave in various situations differs


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