Abnormal Psychology

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Abnormal psychology is the branch of psychology that studies unusual patterns of behavior, emotion and thought, which may or may not be understood as precipitating a mental disorder. The science of abnormal psychology studies two types of behaviors: Adaptive and Maladaptive behaviors. Clinical psychology is the applied field of psychology that seeks to assess, understand and treat psychological conditions in clinical practice. The theoretical field known as ‘abnormal psychology’ may form a backdrop to such work, but clinical psychologists in the current field are unlikely to use the term 'abnormal' in reference to their practice. Psychopathology is a similar term to abnormal psychology but has more of an implication of an underlying pathology (disease process), and as such is a term more commonly used in the medical specialty known as psychiatry.

MAJOR PERSPECTIVES ON ABNORMAL BEHAVIOR
Each of the approaches emphasizes different factors believed to contribute to abnormal behavior, but they do overlap in varying degrees in actual practice. * Sociocultural- problems reflect cultural values and beliefs. * Behavioral- inappropriate conditioning or modeling.

* Evolutionary- exaggerated form of an adaptive reaction. * Humanistic- blocked personal growth.
* Psychoanalytical/psychodynamic- unconscious, unresolved conflict. * Cognitive- faulty thinking
* Biological- problems with brain function, genetic predisposition, biochemistry.

ABNORMALITY - (or dysfunctional behavior), in the vivid sense of something deviating from the normal or differing from the typical (such as an aberration), is a subjectively defined behavioral characteristic, assigned to those with rare or dysfunctional conditions. Defining who is normal or abnormal is a contentious issue in abnormal psychology.

IDENTIFYING ABNORMAL BEHAVIOR: FOUR BASIC STANDARDS

1. Statistical infrequency. (How rare is the behavior?) A behavior may be judged abnormal if it occurs in frequently in a given population. 2. Disability or dysfunction. (Is there a loss of normal functioning?) People who suffer from psychological disorders may be unable to get along with others, hold a job, eat properly, or clean themselves. 3. Personal distress. (Is the person unhappy?) The personal distress criterion focuses on the individual’s own judgment of his or her level of functioning. 4. Violation of norms. (Is the behavior culturally abnormal?) The fourth approach identifying abnormal behavior is violation of, or nonconformance to, social norms, which are cultural rules that guide behavior in particular situations.

CLASSIFYING ABNORMAL BEHAVIOR:
The standard abnormal psychology and psychiatry reference book in North America is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. The current version of the book is known as DSM IV-TR. It lists a set of disorders and provides detailed description on what constitutes a disorder such as Major Depressive Disorders or anxiety disorder. It also gives general descriptions of how frequently the disorder occurs in general population, whether it is more common in males or females and other such facts. The diagnostic process uses five dimensions called “axes” to ascertain symptoms and overall functioning of the individual. These axes are as follows * Axis I- Symptom Disorders and “Clinical Disorders”, which would include major mental and learning disorders. * Axis II- Personality Disorders and a decrease of the use of intellect disorder. * Axis III- General medical conditions and “Physical disorders” * Axis IV- Psychosocial/environmental problems, which contribute to the disorder. * Axis V- Global assessment of functioning (often referred to as GAF) or “Children’s Global Assessment Scale”.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association provides a common language and standard criteria...
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