Abnormal Psychology Assignment 1

Topics: Classical conditioning, Psychology, Behaviorism Pages: 6 (2065 words) Published: June 3, 2015


Assignment 1

1). In regard to the issues of the extent of abnormal behavior, explain the following terms: epidemiology, prevalence, and lifetime prevalence.

All branches of science have different methods for discerning and studying pertinent information as it relates to their particular field. In the mental health branch of science, epidemiology is the study, in a given population, of the distribution of mental health disorders, diseases or other health-related behaviors (Butcher & Hooley, 2013, p. 12). Rather than being geared towards individuals, epidemiology focuses on groups and the number of reoccurrences of mental disorders within a given population. The occurrences and distributions of diseases are recognized in epidemiology. A term we cite in epidemiology when speaking of measuring the number of mental disorders is prevalence. Prevalence refers to the total number, usually expressed in percentages, of active cases over a period of time, or a moment of time, in a population (Butcher & Hooley, p. 12). A lifetime prevalence estimate is one of the numerous ways in which prevalence estimate can be made. A lifetime prevalence estimate would focus on the number of people who have had a particular disorder, whether still dealing with it or completely recovered, at any point in their life. For example, if we wanted to study depression in a certain population group and wanted a lifetime prevalence estimate, we would include those still in the midst of dealing with their depression and those who have recovered. We will find that the lifetime estimate of those with depression will more than likely be higher than other prevalence estimates of depression since the lifetime estimates span an entire lifetime.

2). What are some of the biological causal factors of abnormal behavior? While the scientific community has come up with several different biological factors of abnormal behavior, there are four categories that seem pertinent to the development of maladaptive behavior: (1) neurotransmitter and hormonal abnormalities in the brain or other parts of the central nervous system, (2) genetic vulnerabilities, (3) temperament, and (4) brain dysfunction and neural plasticity (Butcher & Hooley, 2013, p. 61) Neurons, which are composed of a billion tiny nerve cells, form the building block of our brains. If our brains are to function correctly, all these nerve cells must be communicating to one another properly (ZeePedia, 2012). The axon, which is the trunk of the neuron, contains chemical substances called neurotransmitters which are released into the brain synapses when a nerve impulse occurs (Butcher & Hooley, 2013, p. 61). Often times, psychological stress can trigger neurotransmitter imbalances. Norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, and gamma aminobutyric acid are five of the most studied (of over hundreds) neurotransmitters. These five play important roles in how we handle stress, depression, anxiety, pleasure, cognitive processing and even suicide. (Butcher & Hooley, 2013, p. 63) When these are out of balance abnormal behavior can ensue. Hormone imbalances have also been linked to abnormal behavior and psychopathology (or behaviors which are indicative of mental illness). Hormones are chemical messengers that are secreted into the blood stream and then carried to different parts of our body. They influence a large number of body processes and functions such as mood, growth, sexual functions and responses, cognitive processing, etc. When we have an imbalance of hormones, too much or too little, it can cause depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and other various forms of psychopathology (Butcher & Hooley, 2013, p. 64). Genetic vulnerabilities can be another biological cause for abnormal behavior. According to Butcher, “research in developmental genetics has shown that abnormalities in the structure or number of the chromosomes can be associated with major defects or disorders (64).” For...
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