Biological Approach

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Outline the biological approach as an explanation for abnormality (6 marks) The biological (medical) approach of abnormality makes the assumption that psychological and behavioural abnormalities have biological causes. In other words things go wrong with the behaviour and the experience, because something has gone wrong with the brain. The biological explanation would suggest that the individual's mental disorder is a cause of biological malfunctioning. To delve deeper into the biological model we must look at the human brain and also at genetics. The genes we inherit from out parents provide the blueprint for our bodies and brains. A slight abnormality in the genes could result in abnormalities in a person’s brain functioning with the consequence that their behaviour becomes abnormal. It relies on keeping infections e.g. bacteria or viruses, out with a barrier. Infections that get into the brain can cause widespread damage, and if the brain is damaged then a person may start to have abnormal experiences or to behave in abnormal ways. To operate properly, the brain relies on hundreds of different chemicals all being in the correct balance. These chemicals (neurotransmitters and hormones) are used to send messages round the brain and nervous system, so too much or too little of any of them can cause the brain to function abnormally. The two main treatments suggested by the biological model for abnormal behaviour are drugs and somatic intervention.

Although the biological approach focuses on internal, biological processes, it does not ignore the possibility that the environment can have a role to play in abnormality. On the one hand, a person’s experiences, such as high levels of stress, can cause biological reactions that have a knock-on effect on the brain’s functioning. On the other hand, there are some toxins and pollutants in the environment that affect brain functioning directly, such as mercury, which can cause irrational behaviour. An example of an...
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