Understanding Abnormal Behavior: A Comprehensive Analysis

Categories: BehaviorPsychology


Abnormal behavior is a multifaceted concept in psychology, encompassing a range of behaviors that deviate from the perceived norm. The challenge lies in determining what is considered normal and how abnormal behavior is identified. In the field of psychology, four distinct definitions contribute to the understanding of abnormal behavior: Statistical Definition, Social Norm Deviance, Subjective Discomfort, and the Inability to Function Normally. This essay aims to delve into each definition, exploring their characteristics and implications for identifying and understanding abnormal behavior.

Statistical Definition: A Mathematical Perspective

The Statistical Definition of abnormal behavior takes a mathematical approach to discerning normalcy. By analyzing the behavior of the majority, statistical norms are established. For example, when examining emotions, if a segment of the population expresses more severe emotions than the majority during a particular situation, their behavior is deemed abnormal. Consider the manifestation of sadness; if individuals express thoughts of self-harm during times of sorrow, such expressions are regarded as abnormal.

Social Norm Deviance: A Cultural Lens

Social Norm Deviance closely aligns with the Statistical Definition, emphasizing a comparison to the social majority within a specific geographical area.

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Cultural variations play a crucial role, as what may be considered normal in one region may differ in another. For instance, individuals in Northern Canada, experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder due to reduced daylight, may display higher levels of depression compared to their counterparts in sunnier locations like Miami, Florida. This cultural distinction highlights the necessity of understanding abnormal behavior within its cultural context.

Subjective Discomfort: Emotional Distress as a Marker

Subjective Discomfort serves as a valuable indicator of abnormal behavior.

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When individuals experience emotional distress or discomfort in response to their own behavior, it raises concerns about its normalcy. A personal encounter at a bus stop in Boston exemplifies this concept, where an attendant displayed abnormal behavior by hitting himself and repeatedly affirming bus information. This distress, coupled with deviations from social norms, underscored the abnormality of the behavior, showcasing the significance of subjective discomfort in identifying abnormal behaviors.

Inability to Function Normally: A Hindrance to Daily Life

The Inability to Function Normally is characterized by behaviors that impede an individual's ability to perform daily activities effectively. Engaging in routine tasks, such as walking down the street or conversing with others, becomes challenging for those exhibiting abnormal behavior. The inability to function normally not only hinders personal well-being but also limits an individual's capacity to participate in societal activities. This criterion, as perceived by the norm of the population, is crucial in distinguishing abnormal behavior that significantly impacts daily functioning.

Abnormal Behavior in Human Development

Abnormal behavior is an inherent aspect of human development, with conditions like depression, fear, and obsession being prevalent experiences for many. While not everyone encounters abnormal behavior, a majority undergoes some form of it. These common manifestations become problematic when they interfere with daily life, disrupting one's ability to function effectively. The field of psychology, from its inception, has been dedicated to studying abnormal behavior. Despite considerable progress in diagnosis and intervention, there remains much ground to cover before a comprehensive understanding and cure for abnormal behavior can be achieved, if achievable at all.


In conclusion, abnormal behavior is a complex phenomenon shaped by various definitions, each contributing unique perspectives to its understanding. The Statistical Definition, Social Norm Deviance, Subjective Discomfort, and the Inability to Function Normally offer distinct lenses through which abnormal behavior can be analyzed. It is essential to consider cultural nuances, individual distress, and societal functioning when discerning abnormality. While abnormal behavior is a natural part of human development, addressing it effectively requires ongoing research, compassion, and a holistic approach within the field of psychology.

Updated: Dec 29, 2023
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Understanding Abnormal Behavior: A Comprehensive Analysis. (2017, Feb 16). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/abnormal-behavior-is-defined-as-behavior-that-is-not-normal-essay

Understanding Abnormal Behavior: A Comprehensive Analysis essay
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