James is 35 years old and is a successful salesman. He has never married and has no children. His career focus often makes him appear to be a “workaholic.” Lately, he has begun to feel extremely dissatisfied, lonely, and bored. He thinks often of quitting, selling everything he owns, and taking off. Is James crazy? Is he depressed? Kay is a young and very attractive high-school teacher who is involved romantically with one of her students.
She knows this is illegal, immoral, and unethical, but she continues this dangerous behavior. Is Kay mentally ill? Peter washes his hands at least 25 times a day. Whenever he feels anxious, he runs to the bathroom or kitchen and washes his hands to lower his anxiety level. Is Peter’s behavior abnormal? Abnormal behavior, often perceived as a sign of mental illness, is not uncommon in our society. This lesson introduces you to mental disorders, the causes of mental illness, and the treatment of mental illness. This lesson presents the following topics:
• What Is Abnormality?
• Models of Abnormality
• Anxiety Disorders
• Somatoform Disorders
• Dissociative Disorders
• Mood Disorders
What Is Abnormality?
What is abnormal, and just how bad can it get? If you study the portrayal of abnormality in American movies, you would probably think that a person who was identified as being psychologically abnormal could be pretty difficult to be around. In fact, for hundreds of years, people with psychological abnormalities were thought to be possessed by demons. Remember the movie, The Exorcist? Exorcism [The formal casting out of a demon through a religious ritual] became popular in the Middle Ages as a way to cast out demons. Another method used in prehistoric times to “cure” the insane was trepanning [The process of cutting holes into the skull of a living person].
In this procedure, holes were cut in the skull to provide a way for the demons to be released. During the Renaissance period, belief in demons carried through to a belief in witchcraft. Mentally ill people were called witches and were often put to death. These executions were often carried out by burning at the stake. Thankfully, psychopathology—the study of abnormal behavior—has come a long way over the centuries, and attitudes toward and treatment of mental illness have also changed.
Definitions of Abnormal Behavior
It is difficult to define abnormal behavior. One way is to use the statistical definitions that frequently occurring behavior is normal and behavior that is rare is abnormal. But these definitions don’t work for every situation. Another way to define abnormality is behavior that goes against the norms or standards of society. But going against social norms is not always regarded as an abnormality, especially in the case of championing social or political causes. In addition, behavior that may be unacceptable in one culture may be completely acceptable in another. The social or environmental setting of a person’s behavior is a potent factor in the determination of “abnormality.” Joan hates to go to large parties where she doesn’t know anyone.
Unfortunately, her husband’s business often holds large gatherings, and spouses are expected to attend. Joan delays getting ready until the last minute and then spends the evening feeling uncomfortable because she doesn’t look as “well-put together” as some of the other women. She hesitates to mingle because of her subjective discomfort [Emotional distress or emotional pain] that keeps her from meeting new people and having a good time. Ed is a 34-year-old college student. He has been in college since he was 18, taking one course after another and pursuing one degree after another.
He is what some people call a “professional student.” Ed works the typical part-time student jobs and earns enough to pay for his classes and his student apartment. He once laughingly said that he couldn’t stand the thought of a “real job,” but there is nothing funny about his situation. Ed is extremely anxious about the prospect of meeting the demands of daily life in the real world, and his maladaptive behaviour [Anything that does not allow a person to function within or adapt to the stresses and everyday demands of life] keeps him from achieving his potential.
Both Joan and Ed’s behavior can be classified as “abnormal.” So, how do psychologists define abnormal behavior? It is the pattern of behavior that causes people significant distress, causes them to harm themselves or others, or harms their ability to function in daily life. Following is a list of criteria for determining abnormal behavior (at least two criteria must be met):
• Is the behavior unusual?• Does the behavior go against social norms?
• Does the behavior cause the person significant subjective discomfort?
• Is the behavior maladaptive?
• Does the behavior cause the person to be a danger to themselves or others? Models of Abnormality
The theories you have studied about personality can be used to help explain normal and abnormal behavior. Explaining disordered behavior depends on the model used to explain personality. The biological model [Model of explaining behavior as caused by biological changes in the chemical, structural, or genetic systems of the body] proposes that psychological disorders have a biological or medical cause. You might also hear this model called the medical, organic, or disease model. Such models point to brain trauma, infectious disease, or genetic reasons as the cause of psychological disorders.
Several psychological models attempt to explain disordered behavior as forms of various emotional, behavioral, or thought-related malfunctioning. The psychoanalytic model explains disordered behavior as the result of repressing, or hiding, one’s thoughts, memories, or concerns. Behaviorists believe that disordered behavior is learned behavior, just as normal behavior is learned. Cognitive psychologists [Psychologists who study the way people think, remember, and mentally organize information] believe abnormal behavior to be a result of illogical thinking patterns.
Mental Disorders: Causes, Nature, and Treatments
We have looked at some characteristics of abnormal behavior. Now let’s see how psychologists decide what type of disorder a person has. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was first published in 1952 to help psychology professionals diagnose disorders. It has been revised several times over the years. The DSM describes about 250 different psychological disorders based on symptoms, the path the disorder takes, and the criteria checklist. The manual divides the disorders into five categories, or axes.
• Type of Information: Clinical Disorders and Other Conditions That May Be a Focus of Clinical Attention. • Description in Brief: Psychological disorders that impair functioning and are stressful and factors that are not disorders but that may affect functioning, such as academic or social problems.
• Type of Information: Personality Disorders Mental Retardation
• Description in Brief: Rigid, enduring, maladaptive personality patterns.
• Type of Information: General Medical Conditions
• Description in Brief: Chronic and acute illnesses and medical conditions that may have an impact on mental health. [pic][pic]
• Type of Information: Psychosocial and Environment Problems • Description in Brief: Problems in the physical surroundings of the person that may have an impact on diagnosis, treatment, and outcome.
• Type of Information: Global Assessment of Functioning • Description in Brief: Overall judgment of current functioning, including mental, social, and occupational. • Disorders usually first diagnosed in infancy, childhood, or adolescence. For example, learning disabilities, ADHD, bedwetting, and speech disorder • Delirium, dementia, amnesia, and other cognitive disorders. For example, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and amnesia caused by physical causes • Psychological disorders caused by a general medical condition. For example, personality change because of a brain tumor
• Substance-related disorders. For example, alcoholism and drug addiction • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. For example, schizophrenia, delusional disorders, hallucinations, and paranoid psychosis • Mood disorders. For example, depression, mania, and bipolar disorders • Anxiety disorders. For example, panic disorder, phobias, and stress disorders • Somatoform disorders. For example, hypochondria and conversion disorder • Factitious disorders. For example, pathological lying and Munchausen syndrome • Dissociative disorders. For example, multiple personality and amnesia not caused by physical causes • Sexual and gender identity disorders. For example, sexual desire disorders and paraphilias • Eating disorders. For example, anorexia and bulimia
• Sleep disorders. For example, insomnia, sleep terror disorder, sleepwalking, and narcolepsy • Impulse-control disorders not elsewhere classified. For example, kleptomania, pathological gambling, and pyromania • Adjustment disorders. For example, mixed anxiety and conduct disturbances You may think you don’t know anyone with a psychological disorder, but they are more common than you think.
According to the National Institute on Mental Health, about 22 percent of adults over 18 suffer from a mental disorder, that is, about 44 million people in the United States. Many people who study psychology begin to believe they suffer from some type of disorder. Why? Because many psychological disorders are really ordinary variations on human behavior taken to the extreme. Now, let’s take a look at some of the various categories and types of disorders.
In 2004, Raoul was vacationing with his parents in Sri Lanka when the resort they were staying in was hit by a devastating tsunami. Thousands of people died, and Raoul’s family barely escaped. To this day, Raoul feels extremely anxious whenever he is near the ocean or hears the sounds of waves breaking on the beach. His heart begins to pound, his hands tremble, and he wants to run away. Raoul’s anxiety is one of the anxiety disorders [Disorders in which the main symptom is excessive or unrealistic anxiety and fearfulness] that can be traced to a specific event. Anne feels anxious nearly all the time. She wakes up in the morning with a vague sense of dread that intensifies as the day goes on.
This free-floating anxiety [Anxiety that is unrelated to any realistic, known source] is keeping her from doing her best at work and is also getting in the way of her close relationships with others. A phobia [An irrational, persistent fear of an object, situation, or social activity] is also a type of anxiety disorder. Phobias are classified as either of the following: • Social phobias [Fear of interacting with others or being in social situations that might lead to a negative evaluation]
• Specific phobias [Fear of objects or specific situations or events] Melanie is afraid to go into large arenas. Because of her agoraphobia [Fear of being in a place or situation from which escape is difficult or impossible] she did not attend her son’s high school basketball championship game. Agoraphobia keeps her from living life to the fullest. Some other common phobias and their scientific names are given below:
• Fear of washing and bathing: Ablutophobia
• Fear of spiders: Arachnophobia
• Fear of lightning: Ceraunophobia
• Fear of dirt and germs: Mysophobia
• Fear of snakes: Ophidiophobia
• Fear of darkness: Nyctophobia
• Fear of fire: Pyrophobia
• Fear of foreigners and strangers: Xenophobia
• Fear of animals: Zoophobia