Mental Disorders-Causes, Nature, and Treatment

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Mental Disorders – Causes, Nature, and Treatment

James is 35 years old and is a successful salesman. He has never married and has no children. His career focus often makes him appear to be a “workaholic.” Lately, he has begun to feel extremely dissatisfied, lonely, and bored. He thinks often of quitting, selling everything he owns, and taking off. Is James crazy? Is he depressed? Kay is a young and very attractive high-school teacher who is involved romantically with one of her students. She knows this is illegal, immoral, and unethical, but she continues this dangerous behavior. Is Kay mentally ill? Peter washes his hands at least 25 times a day. Whenever he feels anxious, he runs to the bathroom or kitchen and washes his hands to lower his anxiety level. Is Peter's behavior abnormal? Abnormal behavior, often perceived as a sign of mental illness, is not uncommon in our society. This lesson introduces you to mental disorders, the causes of mental illness, and the treatment of mental illness. This lesson presents the following topics:

• What Is Abnormality?

• Models of Abnormality

• Anxiety Disorders

• Somatoform Disorders

• Dissociative Disorders

• Mood Disorders
What Is Abnormality? 

What is abnormal, and just how bad can it get? If you study the portrayal of abnormality in American movies, you would probably think that a person who was identified as being psychologically abnormal could be pretty difficult to be around. In fact, for hundreds of years, people with psychological abnormalities were thought to be possessed by demons. Remember the movie, The Exorcist? Exorcism [The formal casting out of a demon through a religious ritual] became popular in the Middle Ages as a way to cast out demons. Another method used in prehistoric times to “cure” the insane was trepanning [The process of cutting holes into the skull of a living person]. In this procedure, holes were cut in the skull to provide a way for the demons to be released. During the Renaissance period, belief in demons carried through to a belief in witchcraft. Mentally ill people were called witches and were often put to death. These executions were often carried out by burning at the stake. Thankfully, psychopathology—the study of abnormal behavior—has come a long way over the centuries, and attitudes toward and treatment of mental illness have also changed. Definitions of Abnormal Behavior

It is difficult to define abnormal behavior. One way is to use the statistical definitions that frequently occurring behavior is normal and behavior that is rare is abnormal. But these definitions don't work for every situation. Another way to define abnormality is behavior that goes against the norms or standards of society. But going against social norms is not always regarded as an abnormality, especially in the case of championing social or political causes. In addition, behavior that may be unacceptable in one culture may be completely acceptable in another. The social or environmental setting of a person's behavior is a potent factor in the determination of “abnormality.” Joan hates to go to large parties where she doesn't know anyone. Unfortunately, her husband's business often holds large gatherings, and spouses are expected to attend. Joan delays getting ready until the last minute and then spends the evening feeling uncomfortable because she doesn't look as “well-put together” as some of the other women. She hesitates to mingle because of her subjective discomfort [Emotional distress or emotional pain] that keeps her from meeting new people and having a good time. Ed is a 34-year-old college student. He has been in college since he was 18, taking one course after another and pursuing one degree after another. He is what some people call a “professional student.” Ed works the typical part-time student jobs and earns enough to pay for his classes and his student apartment. He once laughingly said that he couldn't...
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