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General Psychology (PY110). Chapter 10 Abnormal Psychology. Abnormal Psychology . The scientific study of mental disorders and their treatment. Ab. Normal. Meaning Away From. Societal and cultural attitudes make normal can be a ‘moving target’ . What is Abnormal?.

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General Psychology (PY110)

Chapter 10

Abnormal Psychology

abnormal psychology
Abnormal Psychology

The scientific study of mental disorders and their treatment




Away From

Societal and cultural attitudes make normal can be a ‘moving target’

what is abnormal
What is Abnormal?
  • Abnormality can be defined using
    • Statistical methods – Is the behavior uncommon?
    • Maladaptive – Is the behavior unrewarding or damaging?
    • Cultural – Doe the behavior violate cultural norms?



  • Abnormal behavior and thinking can be linked to the four major perspectives
    • Biological – Brain/body, chemical imbalance
    • Behavioral – Actions/reactions that include signs of disorder
    • Cognitive – The effect of thinking – OCD, paranoia
    • Sociocultural – What is acceptable in one culture may not be in another
  • No single perspective explains even one disorder
  • The biopsychosocial approachis used to explaining abnormality
    • This includes biological, behavioral, cognitive, and social/cultural factors
nature or nurture
Nature or Nurture
  • As with other areas of human development, abnormality is linked to both genetic and environmental causes
  • Certain genetic types are more susceptible to depression, but environment is also important
  • There is a 70% chance that if one twin has schizophrenia, the other will as well – suggesting a genetic (or biological) link
    • Current research is trying to identify the specific genes that make a person vulnerable to this disorder
how is abnormality decided
How is Abnormality Decided?

What makes one person abnormal and another normal?

diagnostic and statistical manual
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
  • The DSM-IV was published in 1994 by the American Psychiatric Association
    • First edition released in 1952 described only about 60 disorders
    • There are more than 300 known disorders listed
  • Health insurance companies require a DSM-IV classification before they will pay for therapy
anxiety disorders
Anxiety Disorders

Disorders in which excessive anxiety leads to personal distress and atypical, maladaptive and irrational behavior

Specific Phobia

Social Phobia & Agoraphobia

Panic Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

specific phobia
Specific Phobia
  • Fear of something specific
    • Snakes, spiders, tests,…
  • Marked by an excessive / unreasonable reaction
  • Phobias are learnt by classical conditioning
    • we acquire them by experience
social phobia
Social Phobia
  • A fear of one or more social situations in which there is exposure to unfamiliar people or scrutiny by others
    • May include eating in public, resulting in the sufferer rejecting all lunch and dinner invitations
  • Agoraphobia is the fear of places or situations from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing
    • Includes crowds, standing in line or even being in a car in heavy traffic
    • Sufferers avoid leaving the security of their homes
panic disorder
Panic Disorder
  • A condition in which a person experiences recurrent panic attacks (sudden onsets of intense fear – like they are in mortal danger)
    • Some a reaction to something he dreads, such as giving a speech, but other attacks occur without any apparent reason
    • Can occur with or without agoraphobia
  • One explanation for panic disorder is a fear-of-fear hypothesis
generalized anxiety disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • A disorder in which the person has excessive, global anxiety and worry that they cannot control, for a period of at least 6 months
    • The anxiety is not tied to any specific object or situation
  • May be related to a biochemical dysfunction in the brain, which involves GABA, a major inhibitory neurotransmitter
obsessive compulsive disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • A person experiences recurrent obsessions or compulsions that are excessive or unreasonable
    • Obsession - a persistent intrusive thought, idea, or impulse
    • Compulsion - a repetitive behavior that a person feels compelled to perform
  • Thought to be caused by neurotransmitter imbalance involving serotonin
    • Sufferers may be helped by using serotonin boosting anti-depressant drugs
mood disorders
Mood Disorders
  • Involve dramatic changes in a person’s emotional mood that are excessive and unwarranted

Major Depressive Disorder

Bipolar Disorder

major depressive disorder
Major Depressive Disorder
  • Major depressionis characterized by symptoms such as:
    • Feelings of intense hopelessness, low self-esteem, worthlessness, and extreme fatigue
    • Dramatic changes in eating and sleeping behavior
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Greatly diminished interest in family, friends, and activities for a period of two weeks or more
    • Thoughts of suicide
  • Women suffer from major depressive disorder twice as often as men
  • Does not include normal grief and extreme sadness
    • It’s normal to grieve the death of a close friend or relative
bipolar disorder
Bipolar Disorder
  • Mood swings between depression and mania
    • Symptoms of mania include:
      • Abnormally elevated mood
      • Inflated self-esteem with grandiose delusions
      • Decreased need for sleep
      • Constant talking, distractibility, restlessness, and poor judgment
  • In bipolar I disorder, the person has both major manic and depressive episodes
  • In bipolar II disorder, the person has full-blown depressive episodes, but milder manic episodes
schizophrenic disorders
Schizophrenic Disorders
  • Schizophrenia means “split mind,” as mental functions split from each other
  • Characterized by loss of contact with reality
  • More likely to require hospitalization than sufferers of any other mental disorder (40% of all hospitalized)
  • About 1% of the population suffers from schizophrenia
  • The onset tends to be in late adolescence or early adulthood
  • Symptoms classified as positivenegative, or disorganized




positive symptoms of schizophrenia
Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia
  • Positive symptoms are the more active symptoms that reflect an excess or distortion of normal thinking or behavior, including hallucinations and delusions
    • Hallucinations tend to be auditory, such as hearing voices that are not real
    • There are different forms of delusions
      • Delusions of persecutions involve thoughts of conspiracy against you
      • Delusions of grandeur involve believing that you are a person of great importance, such as Jesus Christ
    • Hallucinations and delusions are positive symptoms because they refer to things that have been added
negative and disorganized symptoms of schizophrenia
Negative and Disorganized Symptoms of Schizophrenia
  • Negative symptoms refer to things that have been removed or do not work ‘normally’
    • deficits or losses in emotion, speech, energy level, social activity, and even basic drives such as hunger
  • Disorganized symptoms include disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, and inappropriate emotions
    • Disorganized speech is like a “word salad,” with unconnected words incoherently spoken together
two major types of therapy
Two Major Types of Therapy


Involves the use of psychological interventions

Biomedical Therapy

Involves the use of biological interventions, such as drugs

biomedical therapies
Biomedical Therapies




electro convulsive therapy
Electro-convulsive Therapy
  • Used to treat major depression when anti-depressant drugs are no longer effective
  • Patient is anaesthetized with a muscle relaxant and a 30-45 second electrical shock is administered to the head
  • Effective but often results in memory loss
drug therapy
Drug Therapy





drug therapies
Drug Therapies
  • Effective in treating symptoms of abnormality for 1/3 of sufferers
    • Work partially or intermittently for 1/3, and Ineffective for1/3
  • Lithium used to control mania associated with bi-polar disorder
  • Anti-depressants (includingSSRIs) used to correct neurotransmitter imbalancesconnected with depression
  • Should be used in conjunction with psychotherapy not a replacement for it
  • Four major types





  • Psychoanalysis and humanistic therapies are referred to as insight therapies
  • They stress that a person achieve understanding of the causes of their behavior and thinking
  • Behavioral and cognitive therapies are usually referred to as actions therapies
  • They stress that the actions of the person must change for therapy to be effective
  • Uses Free Association - patient spontaneously describes thoughts, feelings, and mental images
    • Brings conflict to a conscious level - provides clues to the unconscious conflicts leading to a person’s problems
    • Other ‘tools’ used include hypnosis and dream analysis
  • Resistanceis a patient’s unwillingness to discuss a particular topics
    • When a resistance is hit, it may provide clues into unconscious conflicts
problems with psychoanalysis
Problems with Psychoanalysis
  • Transference can occur when the patient acts toward the therapist as they did toward important figures in their life, such as their parents
  • Psychoanalysis requires a lot of time and is expensive
  • Critics question the validity of psychoanalysis’ main construct, unconscious conflicts and their impact on behavior and thinking
humanistic therapy
Humanistic Therapy
  • Most influential humanistic therapy is Carl Rogers’s client-centered therapy
    • The therapist uses unconditional positive regard, genuineness, and empathy to help the person to gain insight into their true self-concept (Real Ideal)
    • Is often conducted in groups – reducing costs
  • To achieve this goal, the therapist is non-directive and involves:
    • Genuineness - honestly sharing his own thoughts and feelings with the client
    • Active Listening - to achieve empathetic understanding of the client’s feelings
    • Mirroring - to echo these feelings back to the client, so they can gain a clearer image of their true feelings
behavioral therapy
Behavioral Therapy
  • Psychotherapy which uses the principles of classical and operant conditioning to change a person’s behavior from maladaptive to adaptive
    • Maladaptive behaviors are learned and therefore can be unlearned
  • In counterconditioning, a maladaptive response is replaced by an incompatible adaptive response
  • Systematic desensitizationis counterconditioning where a fear response to an object or situation is replaced with a relaxation response in a series of progressively increasing fear-arousing steps
    • Pioneered by Joseph Wolpe
cognitive therapy
Cognitive Therapy
  • Psychotherapy in which the therapist changes the person’s thinking from maladaptive to adaptive
  • This is achieved by Ellis’s ABC model

A refers to the Activating event (e.g., failure to be perfect)

B refers to the person’s Belief about the event (e.g., feeling like a failure for normal levels of imperfection)

C is the resulting emotional Consequence (e.g., depression)

  • According to Ellis:
    • A does not cause C; rather, B causes C