Different Approaches to Mental Disorders in Psychology

Topics: Psychology, Behaviorism, Abnormal psychology Pages: 6 (2128 words) Published: February 13, 2011
Given the amount of different mental disorders, the search to understand what causes them all seems vast. This essay will aim to present the assumptions that different models make about the origins and treatment of psychological disorders. Although there are a number of paradigms in the area of abnormal psychology, the biological, psychodynamic, behavioural and cognitive are the four major models which place distinct interpretations. Each of the different approaches is considered to the degree that it is of value in practical terms, to the patient, and to the development of the theory. A significant point that will be made is that even though psychologists do not agree on what causes abnormality and how it can best be treated, they will have to compile their different views and contributions, and work together instead of compete with one another. With the aim of achieving a more accurate treatment, that will lead to the cure of each disturbed individual or at least to a significant improvement of their dysfunction, in a way that will allow them to lead a more normal life. The essay will therefore address ‘what the underlying causes of psychological disorders truly are and what methods do psychologists use in their attempt to cure them?’ questions that our society asks. Distinct mental disorders can be identified by occurring patterns of behaviour or symptoms that provide the basis for diagnosis. According to the biological model, also known as the medical model, symptoms are evidence of an underlying disease of the body, somewhere within the body or the brain of the individual. This perspective focuses on the physical aspects of a disorder in an effort to understand its characteristics. The idea here is that it is a natural ‘illness’; that there are physical symptoms and physical causes. So it could be a chemical imbalance in the brain of the individual, a brain defect, an infectious transmission or a genetic predisposition, all possible sources of psychological disorders (Wickens, 2009). The biological approach looks into two main areas, the area of genetics, indicating a heritable component to major mood disorders, especially bipolar disorders (Hindman, Davison, Neale & Kring 2004) and the biochemical, looking at the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters. The problem here is whether these are the cause or the effect. An example of this is depression. It is unknown whether the depression causes low levels of serotonin or whether is the other way round (Taylor & Howes, 2003). So is not very clear cause and effect model in which the biological comes first and the psychological and emotional comes afterwards. Fixing the damage or correcting the chemical imbalance is the necessary treatment, conducted by medical practitioners (psychiatrists, internist, and neurologist), with drug therapy. But these treatments are not necessarily treating the cause of the problems, they can temporally relieve the symptoms but the underlying cause of for example depression, could lie elsewhere. Other approaches in Psychology have other theories which suggest that the causes of mental disorders may lie less in our biology and more in our experiences, the things that happens to us in life (Howells, 1974). For example sadness can be studied at many different levels, by analyzing the thoughts that accompany it (what cognitive psychologists explore) or by using brain scans to study the changes in the brain cell activity that accompany the states of sadness (what biological researchers do), (Alloy, Jacobson, & Acocella, 1999). Both thoughts and brain changes are part of sadness, so the biological perspective and its limitations are becoming more obvious, thus why the approaches of contemporary biology cannot suggest that all or even most of abnormal behaviour patterns are anything more than symptoms of biological abnormalities, “only some diseases are in fact due to a single physical cause” (Howells, 1974, p.8). Other disorders can...
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