Humanistic Approaches to Positive Growth and Self-Acceptance

Abnormal Psychology

Defining the Study of Abnormal Behavior:
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.

  • Actions, thoughts, and feelings that cause people to experience distress and prevent functioning in daily lives
  • In extreme cases, persons may become harmful to themselves or others

Three criteria: Distress, Dysfunction, and Deviance Seem to govern decisions about abnormality

Psychological Perspective

Understanding Abnormal Behavior in Terms of Psychological Events

  • Behavior is due to underlying issues
  • Stems from childhood conflicts over opposing wishes regarding sex and aggression
  • If conflicts are not resolved they can be buried in the unconscious, which can bring about abnormal behavior in adulthood
  • This view was held most famously by Freud

Behavioral Perspective

Understanding Abnormal Behavior in Terms of the Principles of Learning

  • All behavior is merely a response to various stimuli, and these responses have been learned through past experience
  • Abnormal behavior occurs because a person has learned abnormal behavior

Neuroscience Perspective

Understanding Abnormal Behavior in Terms of Biology

  • Behavior is due to underlying issues
  • The root cause is found in a physical examination of the individual, which is why we use terms like mental “illness” and mental “hospitals”
  • Examination may reveal a hormonal imbalance, a chemical deficiency, or a brain injury causing the abnormal behavior

Cognitive Perspective

Understanding Abnormal Behavior in Terms of Cognitive Events

  • Behavior is a result of factors that are within an individual’s control
  • People’s cognition, their thoughts and beliefs, are a central component of abnormal behavior

Social/Group Perspective

Understanding Abnormal Behavior in Terms of the Effects of Groups on Abnormal Behavior

  • People’s behavior is shaped by the kind of family group, society, and culture in which they live
  • One’s relationships with others can support or cause abnormal behaviors
  • Daily interactions that cause stress and conflict can also promote and maintain abnormal behaviors


The 4Ds


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



Bernstein, D.A. & Nash, P.W. (2008). Essentials of psychology (4th ed.) Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Comer, R.J. (2013). Abnormal Psychology (8th ed).  Worth Publishers
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM-5) American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013
Feldman, R. (2013). Essentials of understanding psychology (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Friedman, H.S. & Schustack, M.W. (2012), Personality: classic theories and modern research (5th ed). Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.
McGraw-Hill.McGraw Hill Higher Education (2013), The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.
Ryckman, R. M. (2013). Theories of personality (10th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
Sue,Sue, and Sue (2014).  Understanding Abnormal Behavior (10th Ed), Cengage Learning


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