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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: 20

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: 38

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: 70

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: 30

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: 113

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: 144

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.

Annotated Bibliography in APA format

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Suicide Prevention Program Implementation Issue

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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

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Youth Gangs: Chicago

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Bernie Madoff: Lone Wolf Fraudster

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Case study: Classroom control for teachers

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Role of Family in Juvenile Delinquency Treatment Programs

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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

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Sex Offender Classification and Civil Rights

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Feeding and Eating Disorders

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Treatment of Young Sex Offenders

Treatment of sex offenders occurs in various forms and settings: group settings in a correctional environment, individual therapy in the correctional environment, group settings in the outpatient setting, and individual therapy in the outpatient setting. While many sex offenders are mandated to complete treatment, some sex offen

Sexual Offender Types: Child Abusers & Rapists

Sex offenders are some of the most feared and despised offenders in the criminal justice system, yet they are also some of the least understood. Due to the nature of the crimes that sexual offenders commit and the media saturation that can be related to these crimes, American culture has been considerably affected by Megan's Law

Interdisciplinary Team Break Down Issues for Connor Needs

Case Study: Connor You are an ABA professional on a wrap-around team that works with Connor Brown, an 8-year-old boy diagnosed with Autism, Speech Delay, Gross Motor Delay, Mild Mental Retardation, and Sensory Processing Disorder. Connor is currently receiving in home ABA services from you, and you are currently focusing on sel

Research Design for Family Therapists

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Family Therapy Benefits From Research

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Violet Behavior

In your opinion is violent behavior primarily the result of external or internal attributes?

Autonomous Practice and the Professional Team

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Teen ODD Behavioral Issue Strategy

Unit 1: Cultural Competency and Linguistic Diversity - Discussion 2 of 2 500 words Case Study: Sara Sara Smith is a 13-year-old young lady who has been referred to your office by her parents. Sara's family is African-American and they describe themselves as a two income, professional family. • Sara has one younger broth

Cultural Sensitivity in Practice: Self-Assessment

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Anger, Stress, and Aggression in Violent Offenders

Article: Seager, J. A. (2005). Violent men: The importance of impulsivity and cognitive schema. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 32(1), 26-49. Whether clinicians work in an outpatient setting, a community setting, or a correctional setting, they need to consider how the variables of anger, stress, and aggression relate to vio

Violent Offender Treatment in the Field

When violent offenders are referred to treatment, it is imperative that treatment providers recognize treatment process challenges and their impact on the selection of effective treatment strategies and approaches. Recognizing challenges to successful treatment allows providers to adapt their treatment approaches and the desired

Article Review: Drug Addiction & Criminality Treatment Model

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Professional Malpractice Law

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Levels of Measurement and Concepts of Validity

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Treatment Outcome Models in the Field

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