Psychological Approaches to Abnormality / Psychopathology

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Psychological Approaches to Abnormality / Psychopathology

 The psychological approaches to abnormality include the psychodynamic approach, the cognitive approach and the behavioural approach.

Psychodynamic Approach

This approach is based on the mind and the unconscious processes that occur, many of which develop from birth. Freud suggested that childhood experiences had an effect on later life. The main parts to Freud's theory are the model of human personality; which involves the id, ego and superego, the use of defence mechanisms, and the psychosexual steps of development in childhood.


The Model of Human Personality - Id, Ego and Superego.

The id, ego and superego are all different parts of our personality. The id is present from birth, and it is the pleasure drive. It demands immediate satisfaction, and constantly tries to satisfy the instincts through different forms of pleasurable activity. The ego is present from around the age of 2, and it tries to balance out the demands of the id, with the morals and rules imposed by the superego. It constantly balances the demands of the real world with the instinctive drives of the id. The superego is developed around the age of 5, and this is the 'moral' drive, where the child knows right from wrong. The child will internalise the moral rules, which makes up their superego. Freud suggests that if the ego cannot balance out the demands from the id and the superego, then abnormality has occurred.


Defence Mechanisms

Defence mechanisms are short term methods used to protect the ego when it is coming to terms with a situation. Abnormality occurs when these defence mechanisms become long term. There are eight defence mechanisms:

  • Repression - Blocking a threatening idea, memory, or emotion from consciousness.
  • Regression - Returning to more primitive levels of behaviour (childlike behaviours) in defence against anxiety or frustration. 
  • Projection - This involves individuals taking their own unacceptable thoughts, feelings and motives and attributing them to another person.
  • Displacement - Satisfying an impulse, normally an aggressive one, on a substitute object. For example, if someone is angry at their boss, they may take it out on someone else at home or a dog etc.
  • Sublimation - Satisfying an impulse, normally an aggressive one, on a substitute object - but in a socially acceptable way. For example, using sport to relieve anger or frustration.
  • Denial - Refusing to admit that something unpleasant is happening, or that a certain emotion is being experienced.
  • Rationalisation - Excusing your own behaviour…


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