Abnormal psychology is a branch of psychology dealing with the definition and discussion of abnormal behaviour and how abnormal behaviour can be an indicator of mental illness. What is considered abnormal can be determined using statistics, social norms, and functioning, and is made up of disorders of cognition, disturbances of affect, and problem behaviours.
Worldwide, the prevalence of mental illness over an individual's life is estimated at 18.1 - 36.1% (Kessler et al. 2009), demonstrating its occurrence through different cultures. However, even though mental disorders occur cross-culturally, differences in cultural beliefs are important when examining behaviour.
While in the past abnormal behaviour was often seen as caused by supernatural forces such as evil spirits or witchcraft, a biological approach emerged in which mental illness was treated more as a health issue like any other ailment. Modern theories of abnormal psychology now focus primarily on biological, psychological, and social theories, including psychoanalytic theories, behaviourism, cognitive approaches, and interpersonal theories.
Within abnormal psychology, careers often include psychiatry, clinical psychology, marriage and family therapy, clinical social work, psychiatric nursing, and counselling psychology. Individuals in these careers create treatment programs for those with mental illness, including assessment and diagnosis, drug therapy, and other methods such as cognitive-behavioural therapy. Treatments for individuals with mental illness can occur in private practices, mental hospitals, and community-based treatment centres.
The main topics examined and researched in abnormal psychology include stress disorders, anxiety disorders, somatoform and dissociative disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia, personality disorders, childhood disorders, cognitive disorders, eating disorders, sexual disorders, and substance-related disorders.
Abnormal psychology is a highly used topic on BrainMass, with answers available in the library related to various disorders, treatment, assessment, theoretical models and historical perspectives. There are also free quizzes available in this subject along with eBooks created by our experienced Experts.
Kessler, R. C., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Alonso, J., Chatterji, S., Lee, S., Ormel, J., et al. (2009). The global burden of mental disorders: an update from the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) surveys. Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale, 18(1), 23-33.
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Categories within Abnormal Psychology:
Theories of abnormal psychology include biological theories like structural brain abnormalities, psychological theories such as Freud's psychoanalytic theory, and social and interpersonal theories including family systems theory.
Assessing and diagnosing abnormality is extremely important for the treatment of mental disorders and involves examining symptoms and their causes in order to group these symptoms together into a diagnosis of the problem.
Treatments for mental health disorders can include medicines and brain stimulation techniques as a form of biological therapy, or it can consist of psychological and interpersonal therapies that focus on therapeutic techniques of talking to the client to work towards treatment.
Stress disorders often occur as the result of a traumatic experience, and include post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, and adjustment disorder.
Anxiety disorders are of the most common mental disorders and involve feelings of irritability and nervousness, and include panic disorder, various phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Somatoform disorders involve a physical malady with seemingly no physiological cause while dissociative disorders consist of a disruption in normal cognitive functioning, including memory and sense of self.
Mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, are very common disorders that involve unhappiness, loss of hope, feelings of worthlessness, and in bipolar disorder, this is accompanied by periods of mania.
Suicide is often associated with various mental disorders and can be a result of these disorders, as well as stressful life events or drug abuse.
Schizophrenia is a disease associated with an impairment in cognitive functioning and a disruption in typical emotional states, including symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions.
Personality disorders include odd-eccentric personality disorders, dramatic-erratic personality disorders, and anxious-fearful personality disorders, and are characterized by abnormal personality and dysfunction.
Childhood disorders, such as ADHD, autism, learning disorders, conduct disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and elimination disorder, are diagnosed in childhood and adolescence and may be comorbid with other disorders.
As aging occurs, various cognitive disorders may develop, including Alzheimer's, dementia, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse, and the treatment behind these disorders must be provided with special consideration of the individual's age.
Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa involve negative views towards one's own body and feelings of the need to control one's weight, which may consist of restricting food intake or episodes of binging and purging.
Sexual disorders can involve dysfunctions with the sexual response cycle, like sexual arousal disorders, as well as paraphilias and gender identity disorders.
Use of substances such as depressants, stimulants, and opioids can eventually lead to substance abuse and dependence, which results in addiction to the substance and withdrawal when the substance is not taken.
When an individual is suffering from a mental illness so severely that they cannot be held responsible for their actions and cannot function in society, they may qualify for an insanity defense in a court of law or be civilly committed into a hospital for treatment.
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