The Models of Abnormality

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Outline 3 or more models/explanations of abnormality and evaluate these models considering a range of issues. Abnormality is a difficult thing to define as this involves answering the trivial question of ‘What is normal?” The Oxford dictionary’s definition of normal is “conforming to a standard; usual, typical or expected.”Another definition of normal would be “Someone/something that conforms to society.” These definitions would suggest that to be abnormal within mental health one would be acting out of the norms of what you would expect in society; an extreme example of someone acting abnormally would be for them to start dancing on the tables in a public place. This however creates the problem that sometimes abnormal behaviour isn’t actually abnormal depending on the situation, which breaks the rules of social norms and behaviours. Something that is normal in one situation or even culture might be completely abnormal in another situation or culture. There are four definitions within psychology that might better describe abnormalities in mental health; these are “Statistical frequency”, “failure to function adequately”, “deviation from ideal mental health” and “deviation from social norms”. They all attempt to measure when a person is abnormal within their mental health .There are also different models or explanations of abnormality within psychology and in this essay I will explain and evaluate three of these models, these being the behavioural approach, the biological (or medical) approach and the cognitive approach. The biological model or explanation of abnormalities within mental health explains abnormality using genetics and the chemicals of the body and mind. “The biological approach has dominated the field of mental health for the past 200 years.” (M.C 2008) This is due to the progression of people seeing mental illness as a “possession” or a spiritual thing moving onto people realising there was a link between people getting ill or injured and becoming “mad” which therefore encouraged more scientific tests to be performed. “If you cut open the head, you will find the brain humid, full of sweat and smelling badly. And in this way you may see that it is not god which injured the body, but disease.” (Greek physician Hippocrates. Cited in Zilboorg and Henry, 1941. R.G, 2000.) This is a very early example of how people started making the link between physical causes and mental disorders. Some physical causes that are commonly proposed and investigated under the biological approach are brain damage, infection, biochemistry and genes. Biological treatments include drug treatments, electro-convulsive therapy and psychosurgery. A major weakness to this approach might be that the person diagnosed with a mental illness has no responsibility for their behaviour and the approach is almost an excuse for behaving abnormally. This weakness causes a lot of problems within the law and criminality as they don’t get as punished as other criminals but instead get help with their “illness”. Another weakness is that it seems to completely ignore the other models like cognitive, for example it ignores the idea that psychological disorders could also be caused or aggravated factors such as “learned behaviours”, “ways of thinking” and “emotional experiences”. (M.C 2008) Even though the weaknesses for this model of abnormality are quite strong, the strengths seem just as strong and valid. This is because the biological model is largely backed up with research and is scientifically testable and even though the drug treatments encouraged by this model might not work every time this model has at least taught us so much more about the biological factors “underpinning psychological disorders.” (M.C 2008.) A recent study of the biological model is Gottesman (1991) and his study of the genetics of twins in relation to schizophrenia. He studied approximately 40 twins and through the genetic mapping of each pair of twins...
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