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Psychopathology and Abnormal Behavior

The problem: The major problem related to this question is that psychologically, the term abnormal has not been adequately defined; and therefore its usage and meaning is often distorted. Descriptions used to define abnormality in studies of Abnormal psychology are drawn from the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR' American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000. However, the DSM offers no operational definition for a mental disorder. Following conceptual definitions in the scientific and medical professions, DSM criteria refer to different types of psychopathology at different levels such as structural pathology, situational pathology, etc. Thus, the DSM describes a mental disorder within concepts of distress, dysfunction, disability, disadvantage, irritation, patterns, etiology and statistical deviation (p xxx). On the basis of DSM criteria, what is considered as deviating from the "norm" is related to mental phenomena and described as abnormal behavior. No assumption is provided regarding the etiology of the particular mental disorder. Finally, DSM criteria cannot be generalized to all cultures. Diagnosing patients with pathology who express different cultural, social and religious beliefs presents a distorted assessment of their personalities.

Another problem related to the concept of abnormality is its use in personality inventories. Most personality inventories refer to what is abnormal based on what is considered maladaptive behavior. Adaptive behavior refers to whether the persons exhibits behavior in which he or she can effectively cope with challenges and/ or stress. However, the degree to which one can be considered maladapated depends on several factors such as cultural and social expectations. Further, DSM criteria are based on a medical model reflected in the term pathology, which means disease.

Solution Preview

Solving the problem of what constitutes abnormal vs. normal would be to revise DSM criteria for Personality disorders, including giving attention to variables of cultural and social factors as part of the diagnostic process. For example, less severe forms of psychological disturbances (e.g. stress-related illnesses among African Americans or other minorities that may be related to discrimination and/or race) should not be considered in diagnoses along ...

Solution Summary

The concepts of abnormality and maladaptive does not always indicate psychopathology. Results reflecting low measurement scores on factors such as anxiety and depression may be socially and culturally-determined. Research is needed to determine the extent to which cultural and social factors impact personality and behavior. Many conditions listed as pathological in DSM criteria as mental disorders may the result of cultural or social conflicts.

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