Abnormal Behaviour in Historical Context
Psychological disorder: behavioural, emotional or cognitive dysfunctions within an individual
associated with distress or impairment in functioning and a response that is not typical or
Phobia: disorder characterized by marked and persistent fear of an object or situation
What is a psychological disorder?
Defined by psychological dysfunction, personal distress, and atypical/not culturally expected
responses. All criteria must be met for a psychological disorder
Psychological dysfunction; breakdown in cognitive, emotional or behavioural functioning.
o Personal distress: individual must be extremely upset, interfering with everyday activities
(boy who faints at the sight of blood=disorder). However, some disorders are characterized
by a lack of distress
o Atypical/not culturally expected responses: the greater the deviation from the norm, the
more abnormal it is. Violation of social norms can also constitute abnormal behaviour. Must
be culturally atypical; trance-like states and possessions atypical in Western culture, but is
acceptable in other societies. Must pay attention to what is functional or dysfunctional in a
The three Ds:
o Deviance: different, extreme, unusual
Distress: unpleasant and upsetting
o Dysfunction: causes interference with life
Statistical deviance: behaviour that does not appear frequently. However, this does not define as
all infrequent behaviour would be considered deviant. Also many psychological disorders are fairly
Distress: behaviour must be personally distressing before it can be labelled abnormal. Manic
episodes provide great positive feelings for the individual, and not distressing to the individual.
However, it is labelled as part of a psychological disorder. Same with psychopaths who do things
socially unacceptable but that they do not see as problematic.
Most psychological disorders are extreme expressions of otherwise normal emotions, behaviours
and cognitive processes.
Not easy to decide what represents a dysfunction or disorder; consider how they match up to the
typical profile or prototype.
Szasz: believed mental illness was a myth and practice of labelling mental illnesses should be
stopped. Argued that the criteria used for determining mental illnesses are subjective judgements
whereas diagnoses for physical diseases are objective.
Albee: criticized the concept of 'mental disease' and use of the medical model and diagnoses in
conceptualizing abnormal behaviour.
Definition of abnormal behaviour: breakdown in cognitive, emotional or behavioural functioning.
Schizophrenics sometimes see or hear things (cognitive), individuals with mood disorders show
emotional breakdown. Distress or impairment common for most disorders; the breakdown is
usually accompanied by distress. Difficulty performing appropriate and expected roles;
impairment is set in the context of a person's background, how was the person doing before the problem began (benchmark for how the disorder is affecting their life). Atypical or unexpected
Science of Psychopathology
Psychopathology: scientific study of psychological disorders
Clinical psychologists typically get a PhD; prepares them to conduct research into causes and
treatments of psychological disorders and to diagnose, assess and treat these disorders. Can also
get a PsyD which has more emphasis on the clinical practice and less on the research training.
Psychologists with other specialty training concentrate on investigating determinants of
behaviour, but do not assess o