Psychopathology (Definitions of Abnormailty (Deviation from Social Norms…
Definitions of Abnormailty
Deviation from Social Norms
Abnormality is behaviour that breaks societies rules about acceptable conduct. They are often simple unwritten rules we learn from living in a society.
- A social norm would be to shake someones hand. An abnormality would be that someone with a dirt/germ obsession may refuse
- A social norm would be to eat the food someone has made for you. An abnormality is that someone with depression may have a low appetite and not eat
- A social norm would be to celebrate a friends birthday. An abnormality would be that someone with a fear of social situations may not turn up
Failure to Function Adequately
Behaviour is abnormal if it prevents a person from leading a normal, everyday life and coping with everyday situations.
Rosenham and Seligman argue that behaviour is abnormal when it is:
(stops you from achieving goals, socially and occupationally),
(cannot be explained in a reasonable way),
(characterised by a loss of control), or cause
(makes other people uncomfortable)
- A compulsive hand washer will often scrub the skin off their hands. This can cause observer discomfort.
- Often self loathing and suicidal, which can cause observer discomfort
- Can freeze, faint, or panic when in presence of phobic stimulus, which can cause observer discomfort
Not a defining feature
Deviation from Ideal Mental Health
Jahoda identified 6 criteria for what is ideal mental health. These include:
Positive self attitudes, Accurate Perception of Reality, Personal Growth, Integration
Behaviour is abnormal if it lacks these criteria
- Have obsessions that are irrational therefore do not have an accurate perception of reality
- Have low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness, therefore lack positive self-attitudes
- Suffers anxiety and panic in the presence of everyday objects, therefore lack integration.
Takes a positive approach
Behaviour is abnormal if it is considered abnormal in the general population. If a characteristic only occurs in a minority of people (2 standard deviations from the mean), It is considered statistically infrequent and therefore abnormal
- Approximately 0.5% of US adults are diagnosed with severe OCD
- Approximately 2.5% of US adults are diagnosed with severe depression
- Approximately 1.9% of US adults are diagnosed with a severe specific phobia
Not necessarily a defining feature of abnormality
More objective than other definitions
Disorders and their Characteristics
Low mood, feelings of worthlessness, lack of interest or pleasure in activities
Diminished ability to concentrate, irrational negative thoughts, occasional suicidal thoughts
Disturbances in sleep, change in appetite, change in activity level
Excessive and unreasonable fear, anxiety, and panic
Selective attention - fixated on stimulus, Irrational thinking - beliefs about phobic stimulus
Avoidance - staying away from stimuli, High stress - flight, fight or freeze
- Anxiety caused by obsessions. Can often lead to depression. Feelings of guilt and disgust
- Intrusive, recurring, unwanted thoughts
- Repetitive behaviours used to manage or reduce obsessions
Behavioural Approach to Explaining Phobias
Phobias are learnt through conditioning
Classical Conditioning suggests phobias are learnt through two stimuli paired together
All behaviour is learnt rather than inherited
Operant Conditioning suggests phobias are learnt through reinforcement
Two Process Model
Initiation: Classical Conditioning
Stage 1: Before:
UCS produces UCR, ie. the stimulus produces a response which is unlearned and natural. Such as being stung produces pain and fear.
Stage 2: During:
A second new stimulus (NS) which originally produced no response is associated with the 1st stimulus(UCS).In phobias often one trial learning occurs which means it is not necessary for it to be repeated fro the association to be made. Such as the sting(UCS) might be associated with a wasp
Stage 3: After:
The CS has been associated with the UCS to create a new CR. For example wasps(CS) which were tolerated before the sting, now produce a fear response by themselves(CS). A phobia of wasps has now been learnt
Maintenance: Operant Conditioning
Operant conditioning explains why individuals continue to have phobias. according to this theory behaviour towards the phobia usually involves avoidance. Avoiding the phobia becomes a behaviour which is repeated as it is rewarding as it reduces anxiety and fear. Therefore avoidance acts as a negative reinforcement as it removes the unpleasant situation.
A person with anxiety will feel a reduction in fear if they decide to avoid a large social event. This avoidance results in the removal of the unpleasant anxiety. Avoidance behaviour therefore acts as a negative reinforcement as it removes fear
If an individual with social anxiety did attempt to go to a party and experienced a panic attack and therefore left, this person will see a reduction in there anxiety. This behaviour of leaving the party is therefore reinforced by a reduction in panic. Avoidance and escape negatively reinforce the social phobia and so it is repeated.
Alternative biological explanations
Behavioural Approach to Treating Phobias
Phobias can be treated under the principles of classical conditioning.
Counter Conditioning replaces the learnt fear response with a relaxation response
This can occur through systematic desensitisation or flooding
Wolpe(1958) developed a technique where phobics were given an opportunity to learn that their feared stimulus poses no threat by gradually being exposed to it. It involves the patient being taught to associate the phobic stimulus with a new response of relaxation. The patient is taught relaxation techniques, then devises a fear hierarchy with the therapist. At the bottom is what they would feel most comfortable doing, this gradually builds up to what creates the most fear. The patient is then gradually exposed to each scenario. When they can remain calm, they move on to the next step, working up to the most feared situation
Relatively fast and easy to administer
Only effective for a limited number of phobias
Found to be effective
Parts may be unnecessary
Likely to produce symptom substitution
Instead of gradual exposure to a phobic stimulus, flooding involves forced and prolonged exposure to the fear in one session. This may be difficult to achieve in a therapy session, as it may be impractical to fill a room with snakes or spiders. Therefore in the mid 1960s a modified technique called implosion therapy was created involving patients being given detailed descriptions rather than actual experience.
Flooding works by replacing a fear response with relaxation. A persons fear response will activate the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system to release adrenaline into the. This causes an increase in heart rate and breathing. Once this state of bodily arousal has been reached, the parasympathetic branch will reverse these effects and adrenaline levels will decrease. A new stimulus-response relationship will have been learned between the phobic stimulus and relaxation.
Flooding can be a highly traumatic procedure
Likely to produce symptom substitution
More effective an quicker than systematic desensetisation