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Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal psychology is the field devoted to the scientific study of abnormal behavior in order to describe, predict, explain, and change abnormal patterns of functioning.


Defining Abnormal Behavior

  • Psychological disorder – Abnormal behavior pattern that involves a disturbance of psychological functioning or behavior.
  • Abnormal psychology – The branch of psychology that deals with the description, causes, and treatment of abnormal behavior patterns.
  • Medical model – A biological perspective in which abnormal behavior is viewed as symptomatic of underlying illness.


Prevalence of Psychological Disorders


Criteria for Determining Abnormality

  • Unusualness
  • Social deviance
  • Faulty perceptions or interpretations of reality
  • Significant personal distress
  • Maladaptive or self-defeating behavior
  • Dangerousness



  • Dysfunction


  • Differences, unusual, extreme, bizarre
    Experiencing deviance from behaviors (typical emotions and thoughts)
    Constant difference from social norms


  • Stated, unstated rules for proper conduct


  • Something incredibly unpleasant, upsetting to person;



  • Interfering with the ability to conduct daily activities in a constructive way
  • Abnormal behavior- culture has significant influence, presence of them does not indicate abnormality




  • Posing a risk for self and others-abnormality may be danger to self or others
    -these people are consistently hostile, careless, confused
    -dangerousness is exception rather than the rule

 Thomas Sasz

  • Idea that abnormal psychology is a myth; ploy to better control citizens,
    -called issues: problems of daily living

 Biological or medical models

  • -mental illness brought about by malfunction parts
    1. brain anatomy: alzheimer’s dementia (brain plaques) and protein spindles
    2. brain chemistry: neurotransmitter systems
    3. genetic: inheritance in mood disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disrders

Psychoanatlyic/ Psychodynamic

  • oldest, most famous, Freud
    -behavior is affected by unconscious dynamics
    -id, ego, super ego
    -defense mechanisms: denial, projection
    -psychosexual stages of development
    -deterministic, pessimistic view of humanity
    -determining for life (to achieve neurotic acceptance)


  • focusing on observable behavior and environmental factors and on how behavior is acquired, learned and maintained
    -emphasis of model on principles of learning theory
    -operant conditioning: environment will reward/reinforce or punish
    -classical pavlovian conditioning: 2 stimuli associated
    -deterministic, environmentally influenced


  • cognitive processes are center of behavioral thoughts, emotions
    -related to maladaptive thinking
    faulty thinking:
    faulty assumptions and attributions
    illogical thinking process
    -collaborative and empirical


  • -emphasizes people as friendly, cooperative and constructive
    -emphasizes self determination, choice and responsibilities
    -roger’s unconditional positive regard and client centered

Sociocultural model

  • -abnormal behavior best understood in light of social, cultural forces that influence individual
    -strongly influenced by sociology/anthropology
    -role of social labels important (rosenhan)
    -family systems
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