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An Integrative Approach to Psychopathology. Chapter 2 Abnormal Psychology. Multidimensional Integrative Approach. Psychopathology: Biological roots Psychological roots Socio-cultural roots As opposed to one dimensional perspectives.

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An integrative approach to psychopathology

An Integrative Approach to Psychopathology

Chapter 2

Abnormal Psychology

Multidimensional integrative approach
Multidimensional Integrative Approach

  • Psychopathology:

    • Biological roots

    • Psychological roots

    • Socio-cultural roots

      • As opposed to one dimensional perspectives


Behavioral: emotions become associated with situations

Biological: inherited traits/genetic contributions

Emotional: influences how we think about and respond to situations

Social: familial/peer influences, cultural context

Developmental: “critical periods”- we may be particularly susceptible due to developmental timing


Genetic contributions to psychopathology
Genetic Contributions to Psychopathology

  • Traits are influenced by our genetic endowment

  • Polygenetic inheritance: psychological characteristics are influenced by many genes, which interact with the environment; each gene has a very small effect

Genetic contributions to psychopathology1
Genetic Contributions to Psychopathology

  • Environmental contexts and experiences determine whether or not genes are expressed or “turned on”

Study of genes and behavior
Study of Genes and Behavior

  • Twin studies:

    • Comparing heritability estimates between identical and fraternal twins

    • Schizophrenia: if one identical twin has the disorder, the other twin has approximately a 50% chance of developing it (similar or lower in other disorders)

Brain plasticity
Brain Plasticity

  • Research: the structure and functioning of the brain is continually shaped by experience

    • Early childhood: deprivation

    • Adulthood: exposure to stress/trauma; effects of therapy/learning, etc.

Diathesis stress model
Diathesis-Stress Model

  • We inherit tendencies toward particular behavioral traits which may become activated during times of stress

    • Particular life events may trigger the symptoms of a disorder

Diathesis stress model1
Diathesis-Stress Model

  • Example:

    • Individual with a genetic vulnerability, a history of childhood abuse, and current stress in adulthood

      • These factors interact to influence the development of symptoms

Genes and environments influence each other
Genes and Environments Influence Each Other

  • Our genetic vulnerability may increase the chance that we will experience stress

    • Example: we may have a personality trait/temperament that draws us toward stressful environments and relationships, which lead to depression

    • Niche-picking: genes may lead us to “select” certain environments

Recent research genetic contributions
Recent Research:Genetic Contributions

  • Genetic contributions to disorders may be overstated in the research

    • Some undermine the importance of environments in the expression of genes

    • The critical role of early environments and experiences

Summarizing genetic contributions
Summarizing Genetic Contributions

  • Genes must always be understood in combination with environments (nature + nurture)

  • Maladaptive environments may impact us more or less depending on our genetic inheritance

The Neuron

Fig. 3.8

Understanding neurons
Understanding Neurons

  • 140 billion neurons in the brain

  • Transmit information; chemical and electrical events

  • Neurotransmitters: chemicals affecting the brain and body; implicated in psychopathology


  • An increasingly complex picture

    • Not just “too much or too little”- neurotransmitters affect information processing

  • Psychotropic medications may block or inhibit the production of neurotransmitters, or may increase production

Overview neurotransmitters
Overview: Neurotransmitters

  • GABA (inhibitory): affects information transmission- GABA tends to reduce anxiety- anti-anxiety meds allow more GABA to attach to receptors

  • Serotonin: information processing and mood regulation- different effects depending on the area of the brain

Overview neurotransmitters1
Overview: Neurotransmitters

  • Dopamine: has a general effect, allowing other neurotransmitters to function; associated with pleasure seeking; revision to the “dopamine hypothesis”

  • Norepinephrine: does not appear to directly link to psychopathology, but works with other neurotransmitters; associated with fear responses, blood pressure, and heart rate


  • New hypotheses and findings:

    • Genetic contributions may affect patterns of neurotransmitter activity, which may influence personality characteristics and behaviors

    • Environments and experiences can shape and change neurotransmitter activity over time- brain scans with patients receiving therapy


  • Placebo effect:

    • The brain circuits/neurotransmitter activity change based on our expectations

Brain changes learning and experience
Brain Changes- Learning and Experience

  • Learning/experience influences the structure of the neurons and the number of receptors

  • Studies:

    • Active vs. inactive rats- active rats have more neural connections and more active brains

    • Deprivation/enrichment: brain scans of children

Lessons from behavioral and cognitive science
Lessons from Behavioral and Cognitive Science

  • The manner in which we process information shapes the learning and maintenance of certain behaviors

  • Events become “paired” and associated with each other

Lessons from behavioral and cognitive science1
Lessons from Behavioral and Cognitive Science

  • Learned Helplessness: Seligman

    • When we give up and stop trying to cope

    • In response to stress that we perceive as beyond our control

    • Based on our attributions

New research learned optimism
New Research:Learned Optimism

  • Seligman- we function better psychologically and physically when we have hope, positive beliefs about ourselves, and positive attitudes

    • The mind-body connection


  • Emotions contribute to the development of psychopathology

  • Alarm reactions: fight or flight responses

  • Our emotional appraisals of a situation shape our reactions (behaviors)


  • Research on suppression: activates the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for fight or flight responses)

    • Suppression is linked with psychopathology

The role of culture
The Role of Culture

  • Culture shapes what we learn to fear, expect, believe, etc.

    • Example: case studies of Voodoo death

    • Cultures have difference constructions of psychopathology

The role of culture1
The Role of Culture

  • Culture shapes our constructions of gender

    • Perspectives on gender shape what we find socially acceptable

      • Example: men and experiences of fear and emotion; women and body image

Social relationships and mental health
Social Relationships and Mental Health

  • Research: the experience of social support affects life expectancy

    • Physical and mental health is influenced by the quality and extent of our social relationships

    • Research: having a pet has been shown to lower heart rate and blood pressure

The role of social stigma
The Role of Social Stigma

  • The stigma of labels can affect individuals affected by mental health problems

    • Beliefs about moral weakness and unpredictability/aggression

Developmental considerations
Developmental Considerations

  • Developmental stages and prior experience shapes the experience of psychopathology

  • Equifinality: the notion that there are multiple pathways and interacting factors that influence the development of psychopathology


  • New research findings are changing our understanding of psychopathology

  • A multidimensional perspective is needed to understand the development of psychological disorder