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Psychological Abnormality Essay

There are many ways of defining psychological abnormality; the two I will be discussing is deviation from social norms and failure to function adequately. Deviation form social norms is a person’s thinking or behavior being classified as abnormal if it violates the rules or norms about what is expected or acceptable behavior in a particular social group. An example of this can be anorexia, more common in females where the person sees themselves as overweight even when extremely thin and person is terrified of weight gain.

The media create unrealistic, and for most people ‘ideal’ images, especially of women. Most models are well below normal weight for their age and height Sufferers desperately want to be accepted and valued and tend to feel that they are not. However self-starvation is seen as abnormal in terms of social norms. Strength of deviation from social norms is that this definition takes into consideration the effect that behavior has on others in which deviance is defined in terms of breaking social rules which are usually made in order to help people live together.

There are many limitations with the definition of deviation from social norms, beliefs about abnormality and social norms or morally acceptplable behavior changes over time for example homosexuality was included in the American classification system for disorders up to the 1960s. Since then attitudes have changed and homosexuality it no longer seen as a disorder. Another limitation is that context is import as we distinguish between normal and abnormal according to social norms of the time.

Much of our behavior is context specific and take out of context may seem bizarre for example if you saw a person suddenly jump up from a park bench and start talking to themselves you might think of them as being very strange on the other hand if you saw a camera crew you would have thought of it being bizarre. Also culture relativity can be a limitation as different cultures have different ideas about acceptable behavior fro example some African societies cut themselves as a sign of inner beauty but in Western societies we se it as self harm.

Another definition of abnormality is failure to function adequately this is when abnormal behavior interferes with daily life/functioning i. e. people are unable to live a normal life. An example of this can be when people cannot work and lose the motivation to care for themselves properly and agoraphobia or fear of crowds which is defined as an abnormal behavior where a person may have a fear of open space and can’t go shopping, school and do other everyday things because they have a fear of crowds. Strength of this definition is that it is easy to judge who is failing to function adequately because it is easy to . ist behaviors that show people are not functioning properly in their everyday lives e. g. unable to dress themselves, can’t get up in the morning etc. Limitations of this definition can be the context as starving yourself is irrational, unpredictable and maladaptive. However it is understandable when political prisoners go on hunger strike as a political protest, so context is important. Also some people may not have psychological disorder but still have failure to function adequately e. g. dues to economic conditions it may not be possible to hold down a job and support family.

Another limitation is that some people are able to maintain an adequate or high level of functioning even if they have a psychological disorder for example some people with anxiety or depression can still function. Similarity between both definitions is that they both have a limitation of culture relativity as different societies have different rules and norms of what’s normal and abnormal. A problem with both definitions is that context is important as we distinguish what is normal and abnormal behavior according to what is expected in a given situation according to the social norms at the time.


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