Lecture 1 For those of you who missed class, these notes have all the lecture slides and my own notes taken integrated together in one neat word document. Great for last minute studying!
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Chapter 1- Abnormal Psychology: An Overview
What Do We Mean by Abnormal Behaviour?
•There is no consensus definition
•There are, however, some clear elements of abnormality
•No single behaviour makes an individual abnormal must have a cluster of behaviours
The Elements of Abnormality
•Suffering: How much suffering is taking place?
•Maladaptiveness: Hindering the ability to function in life. Ex. Anorexia restrict food
intake, the individual becomes so thin that he/she needs to be hospitalized.
•Deviancy: Away from the norm. Statistically rare behaviour.
•Violation of the standards of society: Every society will help to define what is
•Social discomfort: How comfortable are people around this behaviour? The
consistency helps ppl figure out if it’s under the cluster of abnormal behaviours.
•Irrationality and unpredictability: We need to tell that you are behaving in a
predicable manner. Going against expectations.
Why Do We Need to Classify Mental Disorders?
•Nomenclature allows us to structure information
•Defining the domain so we can manage the disorder “Is it genetic/hereditary?”
•Social & political implications
•Diagnostic classification systems classify disorders, not people
–Language, very important!
–The patient is schizophrenic
–A patient who suffers from schizophrenia
–“addict” VS “substance abuse user”
Problems with Classification
Classification systems can also lead to:
•Loss of information
–“Do you view people with mental illness as less competent, more irresponsible,
more dangerous, unpredictable?”
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
•Gold standard for defining mental disorders
•Currently in the 4th edition (DSM-IV)
•The DSM definition does not specifically refer to the causes of mental disorders.
•Also rules out behaviours that are culturally sanctioned.
•Published by the American Psychiatric Association
•Covers all mental health disorders for both children & adults
•Statistics in terms of:
–age at onset,
–as well as some research concerning the optimal treatment approaches.
•DSM – IV
Assesses five dimensions:
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Chapter 1- Abnormal Psychology: An Overview
•Axis I: Clinical Syndromes
oWhat we are classically used to hearing ex. Depression syndrome.
•Axis II: Developmental Disorders & Personality Disorders
oAny disorder that occurs from childhood. ex. Mental retardation
•Axis III: Physical Conditions
oMakes conditions in I and II worse. Ex. Brain injury
•Axis IV: Severity of Psychosocial Stressors
oTo what extent are these psychosocial stressors affecting you? Can you handle
•Axis V: Highest Level of Functioning
oOverall, how are you doing? Based on last year, how are you doing now? Individual’s
intelligence, how they view the world, emotional IQ, etc.
The DSM-IV Definition of Mental Disorder
•A clinically significant behavioural or psychological syndrome or pattern
oClassical def’n of a clinical disorder
oClinically significant? Don’t know what it means, and how it is measured?
•Associated with distress or disability (i.e., impairment in 1 or more important
areas of functioning)
oHow much disability before can be considered to be suffering from a mental
•Not merely an expectable and culturally sanctioned response to a particular
event (e.g., the death of a loved one)
oWho determines what is culturally sanctioned?
•Considered to reflect behavioural, psychological, or biological dysfunction in the
oMental disorder arrives because the person has a mental disorder??? WTF?
Classifying Abnormal Behaviour
•DSM classification does have limitations
Wakefield defines a mental disorder as a condition that
•Causes significant distress or disability
–How do we measure significance??
•Is not merely an expectable response to a particular event
•Is a manifestation of mental dysfunction
•The dysfunction is producing the disorder.
•Wakefield introduced “harmful dysfunction”
Harm is defined by social values. Society will define what harm is.
Dysfunction is an underlying function that went wrong and contributes to
Cultural Influences in Abnormality
•Cultural factors influence the presentation of disorders found all over the globe
•Certain forms of psychopathology are highly culture-specific
–Kyofusho, from Japan
•A person gets obsessed with how they smell/dress/blush/etc. Offending
someone on how you/your body is behaving.
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