University of Phoenix
Instructor: Dr. Kristi Husk
26 August 2013
Abnormal psychology is the branch of psychology that examines unusual behavior as compared to that behavior that is classified normal. Throughout history society has tried to understand and control behavior. Many studies such as Skinner’s reinforcement theory, has tried to develop techniques to modify behavior. The field of abnormal psychology draws identifies causes for behavior not considered normal by drawing from the general field of psychology and other areas, with the big question being, what the true definition of abnormal is. Abnormal is made up of three categories, supernatural, medical, humanitarian.
Abnormal psychology studies two different types of behaviors, adaptive and maladaptive behavior. Maladaptive consists of those behaviors that suggest a problem exists and leaves the individual vulnerable to the inability to deal with environmental stress. History
Throughout history, many theories have been developed to explain psychological issues. The supernatural category refers to the idea that mental disorders are caused spiritually (Osborn, 2009). This generally implicates that a person has been possessed and the possession is what causes the mental illness. The medical aspect approaches mental illness resulting from natural causes, such as, biological imbalance, cognitive problems, or emotional stressors (Osborn, 2009). The humanitarian approach views abnormal behavior resulting from poor living conditions or cruelty (Osborn, 2009).
Although the field of abnormal psychology has not been identified as a scientific field until recently, all civilizations have had their own approach or techniques and understanding of abnormal behavior. Archeologist have found evidence dating back since the time before Christ, that shows surgical procedures that were performed on individuals to try and resolve the abnormal behavior taking place. In Mesopotamia the perspective was that of evil spirits causing mental illnesses. During the time of the Roman Empire a scientific method of dealing with mental illness begins to take shape. Homer blamed on God taking the mind away as punishment for certain deeds. Many Greek philosophers wrote papers discussing psychosis, mania, phobias, and paranoia.
During the Dark Ages no real scientific advance was made in the field of abnormal psychology (Schneider & Langle, 2012). Unlike the Greeks the cultures went back to the understanding of spirits and possessions to explain abnormal behavior. During this time individuals who were classified as mentally ill would be punished and brutally treated (Schneider & Langle, 2012). During the Renaissance period the term witch hunting came about. It was during this time in Europe that society looked to identify those that were classified as mentally ill and tried to eradicate them (Schneider & Langle, 2012). Moving into the 16th century supernatural causes were still the understanding for mental illness (Schneider & Langle, 2012). Jahann Weyer wrote a book titled, The Deception of Demons, which attempted to discredit the idea of possession resulting in abnormal behavior (Schneider & Langle, 2012).
In was in the mid 1700’s when Franz Mesmer began to develop the idea of medical and biological factors being the cause of mental illness. Many scientists and medical professionals thought of Mesmer himself mentally ill. During this period asylums became the dwelling place of the mentally ill. If someone was said to be crazy, mentally ill, or displayed abnormal behavior that individual was put into an asylum (Schneider & Langle, 2012). Treatment within the asylums was horrific. Brutal and inhumane techniques were used on patients to try and change the abnormal behavior. As Mesmer was developing his theory of abnormal behavior, society was beginning to become aware of the horrible conditions...
References: Hansell, J. & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Osborn, L. A. (2009). From beauty to despair: The rise and fall of the American State Mental Hospital. Psychiatric Quarterly.
Schneider, K. J., & Längle, A. (2012). The renewal of humanism in psychotherapy: Summary and conclusion.
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