Facts That Matter
Concept of Abnormality and Psychological disorders:
The term ‘abnormal’ with its prefix ab (away from), generally signify the deviance or variation from the normal.
Anything not normal must, therefore, be abnormal. But acquiring insight into what we consider normal, expected behaviour is difficult enough, understanding human behaviour beyond the normal range is quite challenging.
Normal and abnormal behaviour are subjective terms. These terms are qualitative and matter of degree because drawing a sharp line between then is not possible.
The study of Psychopathology is a search for why people behave, think and feel in unexpected, sometimes bizzare and typically self defeating ways.
Several characteristics are considered in evaluating whether a behaviour is abnormal: violation of social norms, personal distress, disability or dysfunction, dangerous behaviour (4Ds), unexpectedness and statistical infrequency. Each characteristics tells some thing about what can be considered abnormal, but conception change with time, making it impossible to offer a simple definition that captures abnormality in its totality.
Classification of Psychological factors: Classification refers to a list of categories of specific Psychological disorders grouped into various classes on the basis of some shared characteristics.
ICD-10: Developed by WHO. This is official classification in India.
The classification is based op symptoms under one broad heading i.e. Mental disorders. DSMIV: Developed by APA. It is multi-axial. It is very comprehensive because classification is based on biological Psychological social factors, cause and prognosis of disorders.
Importance: These classification provide standard vocabulary standard vocabulary through which professionals universally can converse.
It also helps in understanding the cause and diagnosis of mental disorders.
Recurring Theories to Study Abnormal Behaviour:
(a) Ancient Greek philosophers (Hippocrates, Socrates, Plato) developed organismic approach—viewed disturbed behaviour arising out of conflicts between emotion and reason.
Galen—temperament affected by imbalance in four humours, similar to tridoshas.
(b) Middle ages, superstition and demonology—people with mental problems, were associated to demons.
St. Augustine wrote about feelings, mental anguish and conflict—laid groundwork for modem psychodynamic theories.
(c) Renaissance Period—increased humanism and curiosity about behaviour.
Johann Weyer—disturbed interpersonal relationships as cause of psychic disorders, mentally disturbed required medical not theological treatment.
(d) Age of Reason and Enlightenment (17th /18th centuries)- growth of scientific method replaced faith and dogma, contributed to Reform movement
Increased compassion for those suffering—reform of asylums, deinstitutionalization, emphasized community care.
(e) Recent years—convergence of approaches, resulted in interactional biopsycho-social approach.
Factors Underlying Abnormal Behaviour
I. Biological Factors (faulty genes, endocrine imbalances, malnutrition) affect normal development and functioning—behaviour has a biochemical or physiological basis. Abnormal activity by neuro-transmitters (transmission of messages between neurons) leads to specific psychological disorders.
(i) Anxiety disorders (Low activity of gamma amino butyric acid (GABA).
(ii) Depression (Low activity of serotonin).
(iii) Schizophrenia (excess activity of dopamine).
Scientific evidence links genetic factors to depression, anxiety, mood disorders, schizophrenia, mental retardation—unable to identify the specific genes, no single gene responsible for a particular behaviour—cannot alone account for a mental disorder.
II. Psychological and interpersonal factors affect abnormal behaviour.
1. Psychodynamic Model (Freud):
(i) Behaviour determined by unconscious psychological forces—abnormal symptoms, the result of conflicts between these internal, dynamic forces.
(ii) Three central forces shape personality—instinctual needs, drives and impulses (Id), rational thinking (ego) and moral standards (super go).
(iii) Abnormal behaviour—a symbolic expression of unconscious mental conflicts traced to early childhood or infancy.
2. Behavioural Model:
(i) Behaviours are learned through classic (temporal association between two events), operant (behaviour followed by a reward), conditioning and social (imitating other’s behaviour) learning.
(ii) Psychological disorders—the result of learning maladaptive ways of behaving.
3. Cognitive Model:
(i) Abnormal functioning results from cognitive problems:
— Irrational and inaccurate assumptions and attitudes.
— Thinking in illogical ways, making over-generalisations (broad, negative conclusions on the basis of a single insignificant event).
4. Humanistic-Existential Model:
(i) Human beings born with a natural tendency to self-actualise, i.e., fulfil the potential for growth.
(ii) Existentialists believe that individuals from birth have total freedom to give meaning of existence—those who shirk from responsibility live empty, inauthentic, dysfunctional lives.