Abnormal psychology is the branch of psychology that studies unusual patterns of behavior, emotion and thought, which may or may not be understood as precipitating a mental disorder. There is a long history of attempts to understand and control behavior deemed to be aberrant or deviant (statistically, morally or in some other sense), and there is often cultural variation in the approach taken. The field of abnormal psychology identifies multiple different causes for different conditions, employing diverse theories from the general field of psychology and elsewhere, and much still hinges on what exactly is meant by "abnormal". There has traditionally been a divide between psychological and biological explanations, reflecting a philosophical dualism in regard to the mind body problem, as well as different approaches to the classification of mental disorders. Clinical psychology is the applied field of psychology that seeks to assess, understand and treat psychological conditions in clinical practice. The theoretical field known as "abnormal psychology" may form a backdrop to such work, but clinical psychologists are nowadays unlikely to use the term "abnormal" in reference to their practice. Psychopathology is a similar term to abnormal psychology but has more of an implication of an underlying pathology (disease process), and as such is a term more commonly used in the medical specialty known as psychiatry.
People have tried to explain and control abnormal behavior for thousands of years. Historically, there have been three main approaches to abnormal behavior: the supernatural, biological, and psychological traditions. (See Bio psychiatry controversy.) In the supernatural tradition, abnormal behaviors are attributed to agents outside human bodies. According to this model, abnormal behaviors are caused by demons, spirits, or the influences of moon, planets, and stars. During the Stone Age,trephining was performed on those who had mental illness to literally cut the evil spirits out of the victim's head. The Ancient Chinese, Ancient Egyptians, and Hebrews, on the other hand, believed that these were evil demons or spirits and advocated exorcism. By the time of the Greeks and Romans, mental illnesses were thought to be caused by an imbalance of the four humors, leading to draining of fluids from the brain. During the Dark Ages, many Europeans believed that the power of witches, demons, and spirits caused abnormal behaviors. People with psychological disorders were thought to be possessed by evil spirits that had to be exorcised through religious rituals. If exorcism failed, some authorities advocated steps such as confinement, beating, and other types of torture to make the body uninhabitable by witches, demons, and spirits. The belief that witches, demons, and spirits are responsible for the abnormal behavior continued into the 15th century. Swiss alchemist, astrologer, and physician Paracelsus (1493–1541), on the other hand, rejected the idea that abnormal behaviors were caused by witches, demons, and spirits and suggested that people’s mind and behaviors were influenced by the movements of the moon and stars. This tradition is still alive today. Some people, especially in the developing countries and some followers of religious sects in the developed countries, continue to believe that supernatural powers influence human behaviors. In Westernacademia, the supernatural tradition has been largely replaced by the biological and psychological traditions. In the biological tradition, psychological disorders are attributed to biological causes and in the psychological tradition, disorders are attributed to faulty psychological development and to social context. The Greek physician Hippocrates, who is considered to be the father of Western medicine, played a major role in the biological tradition. Hippocrates and his associates wrote the Hippocratic Corpus between 450 and 350 BC, in which they suggested that...
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