Case Study on a Patient with Appendicitis

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Abnormal psychology is the study of mental disorders (also called mental illness, psychological disorders or psychopathology) – what they look like (symptoms), why they occur (etiology), how they are maintained, and what effect they have on people’s lives. Mental disorders are surprisingly common. For example, a study conducted by the World Health Organization examined the prevalence, or frequency,of mental disorders in people visiting medical doctors in primary care settings in 14 countries.As figure 15.1 shows, the study revealed that 24 per cent of these people had diagnosable mental disorders and another 10 per cent had severe symptoms of mental disorders (Üstün & Sartorious, 1995Defining abnormality is deceptively difficult. When asked todescribe abnormal behaviour, people typically say that it occursinfrequently, is odd or strange, is characterized by suffering, or isdangerous. All of these are reasonable answers for some types ofabnormal behaviour, but none of them is sufficient in itself, and making them all necessary results in too strict a definition. One parsimonious and practical way to define abnormalbehaviour is to ask whether the behaviour causes impairment in the person’s life. The more abehaviour gets in the way ofsuccessful functioning in animportant domain of life(including the psychological,interpersonal and achievement/performance domains),the more likely it is to be considered a sign of abnormality. Whenseveral such behaviours or symptoms occur together, they mayconstitute a psychological disorder. Psychological disorders are formally defined in widely usedclassification systems, or nosologies: the International Classification of Diseases – 10th edition (ICD-10; World Health Organization, 1992) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of MentalDisorders – 4th edition (DSM-IV; APA, 1994). Although they differfrom one another in format, these two systems cover the samedisorders and define them in a similar manner. WHAT DOES ‘ABNORMAL’ MEAN?...
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