Abnormal Psychology and Therapy
July 2, 2013
Abnormal Psychology and Therapy
To distinguish psychology from other sciences and to explain how the human mind processes information, several schools of thought have emerged. Before the 1950s, psychologists used their own theories to diagnose psychiatric disorders. Now in its fourth edition, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) uses a multiaxial system to diagnose mental illnesses (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). This system places mental disorders in their social and biological context by evaluating patients along five axes: clinical syndromes, personality disorders (and mental retardation), medical conditions, environmental stressors, and global level of functioning (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). To treat mental disorders, theories developed and evolved. Among these theories are functionalism, Gestalt, psychoanalytic, behaviorism, humanistic, and cognitive. These theories uses therapy, such as cognitive and psychodynamic therapy, to treat mental disorders. To treat a mental illness with success, psychologists must be able to differentiate normal and abnormal psychology; diagnose a mental disorder and mental illness; and identify the best therapy to treat a psychiatric disorder.
In psychology, there is normal psychology and abnormal psychology. Normal psychology studies human behavior with a focus on the socially acceptable traits and behaviors of the general population (Rodger, 2013). For instance, child psychology emphases on how children develop mental and behavioral characteristics as they age. Normal psychology creates a reference to draw inferences about typical behavior and thought patterns. In contrast, abnormal psychology is the study of behavior that the general population considers socially unacceptable, including mental disorders (Rodger, 2013). Butcher stated, in the book Abnormal Psychology, “that there is still no universal agreement about what is meant by abnormality or disorder (2013)”. Butcher explained that there are signs that a person exhibits when there is a possible psychological problem. The associated signs are suffering, maladaptiveness, statistical deviancy, social discomfort, irrationality, dangerousness, and violation of the standards of society. When people violate standards of society, break the rules and act socially peculiar they exhibit abnormal behavior (Butcher, 2013). Examples of abnormal behavior include a person suddenly screaming an obscenity, placing oneself in danger, threatening suicide, or placing others in danger. Society believes that maladaptive behavior is abnormal, although not every disorder consists of maladaptive behavior (Butcher, 2013). According to Butcher, people who do dangerous things do not necessarily have signs of a mental disorder (Butcher, 2013).
Two mental disorders found in the DSM-IV are anxiety and personality disorders (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Personality disorders are defined by maladaptive patterns of thought, feelings and behavior. These patterns lead to chronic and severe disturbances that substantially inhibit the capacity to love and to work (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). There are several types of personality disorders, including borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. Borderline personality disorder is typically more prevalent in women, while antisocial personality disorder is more prevalent in men (Kowalski & Westen, 2011).
Borderline personality disorder is classified by unstable interpersonal relationships, dramatic mood swings, unstable sense of identity, intense fears of separation and abandonment, manipulativeness, and impulsive behavior. Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by irresponsible and disruptive social behavior. These individuals often display symptoms of stealing, destroying property, and a lack of empathy. Antisocial patients describe symptoms of chronic...
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