PSYC 1200 Lecture 8c
Chapter 14: Psychological Disorder
Abnormal A statistical statement referring to relatively rare patterns of thought or behaviour (e.g. great thinkers, gifted athletes, criminals)
It does not refer to mental disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety) because they are relatively frequent.
Insanity A legal concept that merely refers to whether a person knows the consequences of their actions.
Often people with psychological disorders fully appreciate the consequences of their actions (e.g. people afflicted with depression or
phobias), but are powerless to change their behaviour.
Mental Disorder The concept requires some combination of:
Deviating from Cultural Standards:
You might be disordered if your culture thinks you are disordered (e.g. speaking to a deceased relative in North America
could be a sign of a mental disorder, but in China, it is considered normal).
Problem: Over time, different cultures vary on whether behaviour is considered deviant.
You might be disordered if your actions cause harm to yourself or others.
Problem: labels many behaviours as mental disorder that do not seem to fit (e.g. smoking, boxing, being a soldier).
Experiencing Intense Distress:
Problem: some people who should be considered mentally disordered don’t suffer distress from their problem
Also ‘mental disorder’ does not seem to fit all instances of personal suffering (e.g. intense grief over loss of a loved one
and the stress of coping with poverty are not mental disorders).
The Diagnostic and Its main function is to ensure consistency in the label assigned to specific psychological problems (almost 400 disorders are listed).
Statistical Manual of For each type of mental disorder the DSM lists the symptoms of the disorder and, if possible, lists:
Mental Disorders, Typical Age of Onset
Fourth Edition (DSM- Predisposing Factors
IV) How the Disorder usually Progresses
How common the Disorder is
Gender differences in Prevalence of the Disorder
Possible Contribution of Cultural Influences
The DSM provides ways to evaluate each client according to 5 axes:
The primary diagnosis.
Personality traits that may be relevant to treatment.
Relevant medical conditions or prescription medications.
Presence of social and environmental stressors.
Assessment of the client’s level of social and occupational functioning.
Problems with using DSM:
Over Diagnosis: once you give something a label, psychologists may apply it more than is appropriate.
e.g. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): refers to impulsive, messy, restless, easily frustrated children, who
have trouble concentrating. An explosion in this diagnosis could be helping a number of extreme cases, while in many
other cases normal behaviours of childhood might be labeled as mental disorder.
Self-fulfilling Prophecy: assigning a person a mental disorder may encourage them to act in ways that fit the label,
which may intensify the psychological problems they already have.
Also, assigning a mental disorder label might stick in the minds of others even after the disorder has been overcome.
Identification of Normal Life Concerns as Mental Disorders: disorder of written expression, math disorder, and
caffeine-induced sleep disorder are not on the same level as schizophrenia.
It makes diagnosis seem more objective and scientific than it is:
Many disorders have been included in DSM that are supported by the opinions of the American Psychiatric Association
rather than empirical evidence; therefore, some mental disorders reflect cultural bias and faulty assumptions rather than
scientific research (e.g. Drapetomania (early 1800’s) - urge to escape slavery; Childhood Masturbation Disorder (mid-
1900’s); Homosexuality (mid-1900’s); Nymphomania (mid-1900’s); Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (Right Now)).
Process of Diagnosis Initial diagnosis is based on client interview and observations of client’s behaviour during projective tests and objective tests
within a session with a clinical psychologist psychiatrist.
Projective Test Involves asking clients to perform some action (e.g. describe an ambiguous picture, draw a person or house, play with a doll) and
using those actions to infer aspects of personality, unconscious motives or conflicts, etc.
Problem: the way people respond to these tests is not reliably related to anything except:
The biased perspective of the clinician.
The clinician’s instructions and personality.
Momentary concerns of the client (sleepiness, worry, hunger).
Objective Test Standardized questionnaires ask about the test taker’s behaviours and feelings.
Some measure specific emotional problems: Beck Depression Inventory (measures depression).
Others measure various aspects of mental disorder and personality: Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), which