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Concepts of Abnormality and Mental Health

Info: 2428 words (10 pages) Nursing Essay
Published: 11th Feb 2020

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Sevgi Gulbahce Psychology Access to Nursing






It is behaving in ways which the majority of people do not behave in, or not acting in the ways the majority of people behave in.

It can be anything that is not considered as normal. Abnormal behaviour can be affected by numerous factors e.g. social norm, the ambiguity of the break point between abnormal/normal and bias and fundamental attribution errors.

And one thing that may be abnormal in the UK maybe seen as normal in another country etc.

An individual can be said to be abnormal if they are unable to cope with the demands of everyday life e.g. interact with others, self-care and make themselves understood to others. Rosenhan & Seligman (1989) believed the following characteristics describe failure to function adequately are: Vividness & unconventionality, unpredictable & loss of control, Irrationality/incomprehensibility, Violates moral/social standards and Causes observer discomfort.


The meaning of normal can vary from person, culture, place, situation and time. Normal can change with societal standards and norm. Normal behaviour can be subjective and can be recognised when compared to what is not normal or abnormal.

A person carrying out normal behaviour can show empathy, can relate its thoughts to others. They understand their actions, they are aware of all actions and can act sanely. They can show the correct emotions when necessary, and are capable of understanding others etc.




Statistical infrequency

It is used to find out the norm of a society. It can be used to categorise people in to normal, frequent, typical or atypical.

It is not accounted for social acceptability or behaviour type e.g. a very intelligent person may be seen as abnormal because it is uncommon and odd behaviour that is uncommon but may be accepted as abnormal

Deviation from social norms

It is going against a societies accepted behaviour codes

Social norms can be can change depending on the society and standards may change e.g. in our society it was seen as abnormal to be an unmarried mother before than it is now

Failure to function adequately

When a person has difficulty maintaining a social relationship or staying in a job

Other than social dysfunction, it is also being in a disabling state of distress. Problems can be that certain mental disorders may not cause distress and that it may sometimes be normal to be distressed.

Deviation from ideal mental health

When a person does not have all the criteria’s required for a normal healthy functioning

The criteria’s for the ideal mental health may be difficult to measure and so demanding that some people fail to meet them






Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition is a manual published by the American psychiatric association and it used to diagnose and categorize mental disorders

Psychiatrics diagnoses are categorised by the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. It includes all mental health disorders for both adults and children. It lists all the causes of these disorders, age at onset, statistics in terms of gender and prognosis. They use this manual when working with patients to help better understand their illnesses and the potential treatment and also to help the third party payers such as insurer’s. The DSM is divided into five sections and the fourth section is used to asses: the events in a person’s life such as death of a loved one, unemployment and starting a new job etc.


The International Classification of Disease tenth revision is a system of coding created by the World Health Organization. It notes the medical records of the diseases, symptoms, findings and causes of injury.

The ICD-10-classification for mental disorders is made of 10 main groups:

F0 Organic, including symptomatic, mental disorders F1 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of psychoactive substances F2 Schizophrenia, schizotypal and delusional disorders F3 Mood [affective] disorders F4 Neurotic, stress-related and somatoform disorders F5 Behavioural syndromes associated with physiological disturbances and physical factors F6 Disorders of personality and behaviour in adult persons F7 Mental retardation F8 Disorders of psychological development F9 Behavioural and emotional disorders with onset usually occurring in childhood and adolescence. (web 4 health, 2003)


Evaluate the biological (medical approach) and behaviourist approach to abnormality

In psychology there are different approaches when examining both normal and abnormal behaviour. The four main are: biological, behavioural, cognitive and psychodynamic. We will be evaluating biological and behavioural in this essay.

The biological approach to abnormal behaviour concentrates on medical issues that causes the mental illnesses. It can involve damage to the brain, physical illness, or chemical imbalances.

The medical approach believes that it can be caused by any of the following four physical causes: genetic, biochemistry, Neuroanatomy and infections. Usually the mental illness is inherited from the parents. It can run in the family or if a certain gene is seen to be responsible for the illness. There are various chemicals in the brain to help with communication and these are called neurotransmitters. Examples of neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine and adrenalin. If an imbalance in these chemicals occur it can cause psychological disorders, this is called biochemistry. Neuroanatomy believes the abnormal behaviour is caused by a problem in the structure of the brain. It is found that the syphilis bacterium can cause disorders known as general paresis which can cause forgetfulness and delusions. Also there are research to suggest that influenza in a pregnant woman can cause schizophrenia in a child in the later ages.

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There are many different treatment types depending on the illness cause. If the is the problem is caused by physical problem then a physical procedure is carried out. If the problem is with the brain structure then surgery might be necessary and lastly if the problem caused is chemically then drugs are given to address the problem. Antipsychotics are prescribed to patients suffering from schizophrenia. Chlorpromazine can also be prescribed to help block some of the dopamine receptors stopping the brain to become less sensitive. If a patient experience suicidal thoughts Clozapine can be prescribed which acts on serotonin and dopamine pathways. Anti-depressants are prescribed to patients to help with preventing reabsorption or by blocking the enzymes. When drugs have little or no effect or in most extreme cases surgery might be carried out. These include cutting or removing certain parts of the brain. Frontal lobotomies are used in the UK to calm men that are violent. Deep brain stimulation can also be used and is successfully used to treat patients with Parkinson’s, depression and anorexia.

The behaviourist model believes that all behaviour is learned which also includes abnormal behaviour. The behaviour can also be forgotten which is the method used for treatment. There are three different ways in which behaviour is learned: classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning.

Classical conditioning was discovered by a Russian physiologist called Ivan Pavlov. It is a learning method that happens through relations between an environmental stimulus and a stimulus that is occurring naturally. Watson and Rayner did a research on an eleven month old little boy called Albert. He was shown a white rat which he had no fear of, (natural stimulus). Afterwards the rat was shown again to Albert but every time a metal bar was struck with a hammer behinds Albert’s head producing a loud sound. Every time the metal bar was struck he would start crying. This was done a several times and they had seen that Albert had developed a fear towards the rat. (Revision with Richie, 2015)

Operant Conditioning was found by a behaviourist called B.F. Skinner. It is a method of learning that happens through rewards or punishment for behaviour. An association can be made between a behaviour and the consequences for that behaviour. E.g. when a lab rat presses on the blue button he will receive a rewards which is a food pallet however when he presses the red button he will receive mild electric shock. He eventually learns to press the blue button for a rewards and avoids the red button. (Simply Psychology, 2015)

Observation learning is found by psychologist Albert Banbura. It is known as social learning, it can occur from retaining, observing and copying behaviour in other people, and it can happen at any stage of life, but is most important during childhood. Albert Banbura (1965) demonstrated an experiment called the Bobo doll. Children were seeing adults hit a doll and either be rewarded, punished or neither. After seeing this the children had learned aggressive behaviour. If a person is rewarded for its actions they are more likely to repeat the behaviour.

Behaviour therapies are used to treat phobias and involve the patient learning to associate their phobic stimulus with relaxation. SD is an effective therapy used on patients struggling with more serious disorders. It is slower process, however the longer the technique takes the more it can be effective. Aversion method that teaches a person to associate their unwanted behaviour with something unpleasant. E.g. teaching an alcoholic person to associate their preferred drink with being violently ill. Token economy is a method used in psychiatric prisons and hospitals. If a person behaves in a wanted way they are rewarded with tokens which can be used to buy something they like. Modelling is another treatment method and can be used to treat phobias. The patient watches a person coping well with the phobic situation, and then the patient may feel comfortable in doing the same.


Education portal, 2003, what is Abnormal Psychology? – Definition and Common Disorders Studied, (online) available at: http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/what-is-abnormal-psychology-definition-and-common-disorders-studied.html (accessed: 13 February 2015)

Prezi, 2015, Abnormal IB Psychology, (online) available at: https://prezi.com/yqvdodv4jrll/abnormal-ib-psychology/ (accessed: 13 February 2015)

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Web 4 health, 2003, Mental Disorders and classification of mental disorders (ICD-10, DSM-IV) (online) available at: http://web4health.info/fi/psy-icddsm-what.htm (accessed: 14 February 2015)

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Simply Psychology, 2015, Skinner-Operant Conditioning (online) available at: http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html (accessed: 15 February 2015)


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