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Psychodynamic Theories of Abnormality

Psychodynamic theories of abnormality, which focus on how an individual's unconscious processes influence their behaviour, thoughts, and emotions, were founded by Sigmund Freud. His psychoanalysis theory not only looks at unconscious processes and conflicts in the mind, but also treatment for individuals with mental disorders. His studies focused on how individuals may repress painful memories and experiences, which can result in abnormal behaviour and/or dysfunction.


Freud's main theories focused on the id, ego, and superego, and psychosexual stages. In terms of unconscious thought processing, Freud characterizes human behaviour and drives as coming from libido, and aggression. In order to suppress these drives, Freud describes the id as the drive to maximize pleasure, the ego as the drive to achieve desires within the constraints of social rules, and the superego as the moral beliefs imprinted upon people from their family and society. When anxiety over inner conflicts arise, the individual uses defense mechanisms like repression, projection, and denial to combat the issue. However, if these defenses are too weak or the conflict is too strong, it may present as a mental disorder.

The psychosexual stages of development are also an important concept in psychodynamic theory. This theory discusses children passing through several stages as they develop, each focusing on a different area of the body (oral, anal, phallic, and genital), and when trauma or negative experiences occur within a certain stage, the child develops abnormal behaviour fixated on that stage.

The major critiques of psychodynamic theory involves the lack of consideration of environmental influences as well as the inability to scientifically study and research psychodynamic theory.

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