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Abnormal Psychology

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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%1, 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.



1. 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

Somatoform and Dissociative Disorders

Postings: 19

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

Postings: 80

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.


Postings: 37

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.


Postings: 46

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.

Cognitive Disorders and Life-Span Issues

Postings: 69

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

Postings: 31

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

Postings: 33

Sexual disorders can involve dysfunctions with the sexual response cycle, like sexual arousal disorders, as well as paraphilias and gender identity disorders.

Substance-Related Disorders

Postings: 114

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.

Mental Health and the Law

Postings: 146

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.

Reflections on Police-Induced Confessions

The term consultation is vague and can apply to a wide array of activities. Yet, in focusing specifically on the legal system and the field of forensic psychology, the express term forensic psychology consultation is often used to define the consultation that occurs within and between these two fields. The forensic psychology pr

Psychological Evaluations in Juvenile Justice

Criminal courts ordinarily handle adults accused of felony crimes. At times, criminal courts will manage cases involving juveniles but only when they have been remanded out of juvenile court. Criminal courts often rely on psychological evaluations to determine a number of different competencies of the accused. The potential appl

Incorrect Psychological Evaluations: Cultural Bias & Interpretations

No one would argue the seriousness and importance of properly conducting forensic psychological evaluations and using appropriate evaluation methods when working with the courts. For instance, in civil trials, money is often at stake. In juvenile courts, the potential rehabilitation of the accused, which will in turn affect the

Forensic Evaluations in Civil Court

There are various types of forensic psychology evaluations that are helpful in issues germane to the civil courts. Some issues relevant to civil court proceedings include child custody issues, issues assessed by independent medical examinations (IMEs), competency issues of all types (i.e., competency to handle one's financial af

Doing Forensic Psychology Evaluations - preparation points

As a forensic psychology professional, you will most likely work within civil courts at some point; therefore, you must understand how to plan a prior (or, prior to) when conducting a forensic psychology evaluation. There are many methods for planning and conducting forensic psychology evaluations. However, certain steps are imp

Psychological Evaluation Report Exercise

Given that documentation is an important skill for a forensic psychology professional working within the courts, you will be asked to write a report for this week's Application Assignment. To complete this assignment, you will extract the factual material presented in the "Case Study Facts: Week 4" handout, provided in this week

Functions of Forensic Psychology Reports

Aside from professionalism, there are many reasons why accurate documentation is important when working in a court setting. For example, consider the forensic psychology report that is generated after conducting a forensic psychological evaluation. Most of the time, this report will be your only chance to explain your opinions t

Forensic Psychology Practice: Roles in the Court System

The United States judicial system is composed of various elements. Its structure contains elements that are of both a federal and state nature. For instance, there are courts that fall under each of these categories that include trial courts at the state level, district courts at the federal level, and appeals and supreme courts

Communication Strategies and Effective Testimonies

Effective testimony should impart accurate and unbiased information to the trier of fact (either a judge or jury) in a manner that can be readily understood. At times, this may include not only what is said, but how it is said. Both verbal and nonverbal communication is integral in the courtroom and must be effective in order to

Effective & Ineffective Courtroom Communication

Some would argue that there is no more important place for effective communication—especially when a forensic psychology professional is involved—than when in the courtroom and on the witness stand. Indeed, what is communicated within the courtroom could lead to life and death decisions. The concept of communication in the c

Legal Definitions and the Courts: Insanity Defense

In many ways, the legal definitions used by forensic psychology professionals are a reminder that the court system exists separate from the field of forensic psychology. Although the general public may use the term insanity to denote abnormal psychological functioning, it is actually not a psychological term but, instead, a lega

Forensic Psychology Ethics Issues

The legal system and field of psychology share many of the same ethical principles and guidelines. That being said, psychological ethics can sometimes be foreign or even misconstrued with ethical principles used by professionals who work in the courts. It is helpful to keep in mind that as a forensic psychology professional work

The Impact of Forensic Psychology in the Courts

The field of forensic psychology has evolved in part to fulfill the increasing need for expert knowledge and opinions in the judicial system (the courts). Throughout its evolution, there have been various events and cases that have shaped and impacted forensic psychology's role and influence in the courts. Some events have great

Annotated Bibliography in APA format

Prepare an annotated bibliography in APA format with 5 to 7 sources from your research in preparation for providing testimony below: My research information is below: The system for the mentally ill consists of a health care system that often does not see its "patients" as consumers. In a system where the mentally ill are a

Suicide Prevention Program Implementation Issue

Within a correctional institution all mental health services including suicide prevention services are built on three legs. Institutions get themselves in trouble when they ignore or forget one of the legs. The legs being 1.assessment of lethality.2. classification of risk and development of a treatment plan 3. communication of

Preventing Prison Suicides

In every forensic treatment setting, the forensic psychology professional must be aware of the role that suicide prevention plays in the larger system inside and outside forensic institutions. Both incarcerated offenders and individuals awaiting sentencing pose potential suicide risks. In addition, offenders on probation or paro

Challenges in Treating Mentally Ill Offenders

In the study of forensic psychology, emphasis typically is placed on the individuals being served and their specific traits relevant to treatment. Forensic psychology professionals in forensic treatment settings must be familiar with symptoms of the myriad mental illnesses described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Me

Paranoid Schizophrenia Case Review

The treatment of forensic populations, as with any clinical population, must be tailored to the individuals as well as to their mental illness. There are specific treatment protocols for particular mental illnesses that need to be paired with individuals based on the unique traits of the individuals, and augmented with particula

Youth Gangs: Chicago

Class in Chicago it is well known that adult gang members recruit juvenile to commit crimes and tell then that if they are apprehended their sentence will be less harsh that an adults even in the case of murder. The juveniles are very vulnerable to this influence. Some do commit murder. Any thoughts?

Bernie Madoff: Lone Wolf Fraudster

Class Bernie Madolph and his 50 million dollar ponzi scheme is a perfect example of a white collar criminal. What profile type does he appear to fit into?

Case study: Classroom control for teachers

NEED HELP WITH A DISCUSSION 500 WORDS You have been asked to consult with a classroom in a day treatment facility for children and teens who are receiving treatment for psychiatric issues. Nearly half of the students also have a learning disability diagnosis or an identified developmental delay. This week, you pick the age of

Role of Family in Juvenile Delinquency Treatment Programs

Children often are defined by the relationships they have with others—they are sons, daughters, cousins, grandchildren, students, or wards. These relationships are dynamic, and as children age they establish their identity and individuality independent of others. At the same time, children typically rely on others for guidance

Juvenile vs. Adult Offender Treatment Approaches

Theorists such as Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson have documented the psychological skills and psychosocial needs of juveniles as being different from those of adults. Studies in developmental and child psychology reveal that there are significant differences between children and adults in terms of treatment processes and that chil

White Collar Offender - about, treatment, outcome

White-collar crime is not a new type of offense, though advances in technology have altered the scope and appearance of the crimes in this category. For example, in the past, credit card theft was accomplished by stealing the actual card or compromising the card by obtaining carbon copies of credit transactions. In addition, a l

Sex Offender Classification and Civil Rights

The classification of sex offenders is key to appropriate treatment efforts as well the protection of the community. There is always a struggle between civil liberties and community safety when managing risk. Please comment.

Feeding and Eating Disorders

1. Complete a diagnosis for the male client in the attached case study and explain your rationale for assigning these diagnoses on the basis of the DSM-5. 2. Then explain how gender impacts the presentation of an eating disorder. Be specific. 3. Then explain how culture impacts the presentation of an eating disorder. Be speci