Psychological Disorders – Lecture 11
- Mental Disorders
o When adaptation breaks down
o Maladaptive responses
o Within a person’s context
o Statistically rare
o Not explained by cultural norms
o Societal disapproval
o Causes multiple outcomes:
Impairment in functioning
- They do not all have commonalities!
- They merely share a loose set of features
1. Abnormal behaviours are always bizarre
2. A clear distinction can be drawn between “normal” and abnormal”
- Abnormality is a matter of degree
- Not all people fit neatly into one of two categories
- “Abnormality” consists of a poor fit between behaviour and the situations
in which it is enacted
o Who talks to themselves when alone?
o How about in public?
3. As a group, former mental patients are unpredictable and dangerous
- The typical former mental patient is no more volatile or dangerous than
people in general
- Exceptions to this rule generate the most media attention
4. Mental disorders indicate a fundamental deficiency in personality, and are
- Everyone shares the potential for becoming disordered and behaving
5. Because mental illness is so common, there is reason to be fearful of
one’s own vulnerability.
6. Geniuses are particularly prone to emotional disorders
- Terman’s study of high IQ children showed that high-IQ people actually
may be more well-adjusted than the population in general
7. Most mental disorders are incurable
- Between 70%-80% of those hospitalized as mental patients eventually
• Demonic Model – Mental illness and related odd behaviours were attributed to evil spirits
infesting the body.
• Hearing voices, talking to oneself, etc.
• Medical Model
– Mental illness was due to a physical disorder requiring medical
• Governments housed troubled individuals in asylums
• Attempts to scare a person out of their disorder
• I.e., bloodletting and snake pits (early medical model
• Chlorpromazine, circle 1950s
– Anti-psychotic drug
– Chlorpromazine helped bring upon the deinstitutionalization
movement in the 60s-70s
• Benefits: Some patients returned to normal lives and continued
outpatient programs. It has saved the government a large
amount of money.
• Costs: Many patients ended up homeless. This can still be
seen today as a recent study indicated that 15% of all patients
treated for mental disorders are homeless.
– Reduced the “need” of unethical and inhumane medical treatments
• Many mental disorders are culturally universal such as schizophrenia,
alcoholism, psychopathic personality, etc.
• Eating disorders are most commonly associated with Western cultures.
– Anorexia nervosa
• More culturally universal
– Bulimia nervosa
• Unique to Western(izing) cultures
• We must be careful to avoid the use of popular psychology labels for
• Not all disorders show the same trends
Classifications and Diagnoses
• Pinpoints symptoms, helps select treatments, and assists professional
• Some common misconceptions associated with diagnosis are:
– Diagnosis stigmatizes people.
• Labeling theorists believe that diagnosis can exert a negative
influence on behaviours and perceptions
• Leads health practitioners to self-fulfilling prophecies.
– Diagnosis is simply pigeonholing individuals into boxes.
• Psychiatrists realize that people differ
– Diagnosis is invalid.
• Diagnoses tell us something new about the person – Diagnosis is unreliable.
• For major mental disorders, interrater reliability is high
• Outlines diagnostic criteria and “decision rules” for each current mental
• Also provides research, medical, therapeutic, and insurance information for
• Adopts and biopsychosocial approach
o Organized in 5 Axis
Major Axis I – Clinical disorders
• Substance-related disorders, schizophrenia
Major Axis II – Developmental and personality disorders
• Antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality
disorder, psychopathic personality disorder
Major Axis III – General medical conditions
• Secondary (physical or mental) conditions
• Infectious and parasitic diseases
Major Axis IV – Psychosocial and environmental problems
• Problems with primary support group, economic
problems, occupational problems
• Problems associated with external stress
• Problems related to the social environment
Major Axis V – Global assessment of functioning
• General Assessment of Functioning (GAF)
o Continuum of mental health – mental illness
o Considers the:
Severity and duration of symptoms
Impact on psycho, social, and occupational
o Scale of 0-100
Criticisms of the DSM
• Exclusive reliance on a categorical model
– Some mental disorders may better fit a dimensional model as they may
differ from normal functioning by degree rather than type
• E.g., depression and anxiety.
• Classifications may not reflect precise boundaries of a mental disorder.
– Lacking an operational definition between normality vs. pathology
– Not everything is based on scientific data
– Some disorders are based on subjective committee decisions.
• High level of comorbidity among diagnoses.
• Exclusive reliance on a categorical model.
• Often overlooks individual differences.
– Differences in ethinic/cultural background, gender/sex, age, etc. Anxiety Disorders
• The most prevalent of all psychiatric disorders
– Lifetime prevalence of 29%
– Average age of onset is about 11 years
• Younger than most disorders
• Somatoform Disorders
– Class of conditions marked by physical symptoms that suggest an
underlying medical illness, but that are actually psychological in origin.
• Hypochondriasis – think you have a condition, but not actually
having one (“Let’s see which illness I have today!”)
• Panic Disorder
– Repeated and unexpected panic attacks, along with a change in
behaviour to avoid panic attacks.
– Nervous feeling escalate to fear/terror
– About 20%-25% of college students report at least one panic attack
within a year
• Generalized Anxiety Disorder
– Extensive periods of continual feelings of worry, anxiety, physical
tension, and irritability.
– Spend on average 60% of each day worrying.
• Compared to 18% of general population
– Often experience other anxiety disorders such as panic disorder or
– An irrational fear to a non-threatening object where the reaction is
disproportionate to ac