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Defining Abnormal Behavior, Part I January 15, 2014 PSYC 2340: Abnormal Psychology Brett Deacon, Ph.D. Announcements. No class next Monday Course website is here:

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Defining abnormal behavior part i january 15 2014 psyc 2340 abnormal psychology brett deacon ph d

Defining Abnormal Behavior, Part IJanuary 15, 2014PSYC 2340: Abnormal PsychologyBrett Deacon, Ph.D.



  • No class next Monday

  • Course website is here:


“If you talk to God, you are praying. If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.”-Thomas SzaszThere is a fine line between ‘hobby’ and ‘mental illness’.” -Dave Berry

What is abnormal

What is Abnormal?

  • What is a psychological “abnormality?”

  • How does it differ from “normal” psychological experience?

  • How clear is the distinction between normality and abnormality?

  • What is a “mental disorder,” and how do we know it when we see it?

  • What criteria can we use to distinguish psychological normality and abnormality?

Collecting vs hoarding

Collecting vs. Hoarding

  • 85-95% of children have collections

  • 14% of adults have collections

    • What’s the difference between normal “collecting” objects and abnormal “hoarding?”

Collecting vs hoarding1

Collecting vs. Hoarding

  • Do you have a collection?

    • Do you feel the need to save it?

    • Would it be difficult to discard it, regardless of its value?

    • Is there cluttered accumulation? What’s the difference between “collecting” objects and “hoarding” objects?

    • Is your collection interfering with your life?

    • What if you have enough money to buy a huge house to store your collection so it doesn’t interfere with your life?

    • How clear is the dividing line between “normal” collecting and “abnormal” hoarding?

Case example frank

Case Example: Frank

Frank is 50-year-old, single, impeccably groomed military veteran who lives alone in an apartment in a large city. He hoards objects which he finds valuable in some way. His apartment, car, and four storage lockers are almost entirely filled with “junk.” He spends a great deal of time “dumpster diving” to acquire objects. Once he has acquired an object he cannot bring himself to throw it away. Faced with the looming threat of eviction, he sought treatment.

Case example frank1

Case Example: Frank

  • Frank provided me with this video tour of his apartment and encouraged me to use it as a teaching tool

Case example frank2

Case Example: Frank

  • Additional information about Frank’s hoarding behavior

Case example frank3

Case Example: Frank

  • Is Frank’s behavior “abnormal?”

  • If so, on what basis?

Case example frank4

Case Example: Frank

  • What mental disorder diagnosis might Frank qualify for?

    • On what basis?

    • Is this mental disorder a “thing” that Frank “has,” or a label that describes his behavior?

    • Does “diagnosing” Frank with this mental disorder add anything to our understanding of his behavior?

Case example frank5

Case Example: Frank

  • Can we assume, based solely on his “abnormal” behavior, there is something biologically wrong with him?

  • Does Frank have a “mental illness?”

  • Does he have a brain disease?

Case example frank6

Case Example: Frank

  • Do you feel comfortable applying the following quotes to Frank?

  • “[Mental disorders] are real illnesses of a real organ, the brain, just like coronary artery disease is a disease of a real organ, the heart.” – former NIMH director Steven Hyman

  • “Mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders.” – National Alliance on Mental Illness


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