PSYB30: Personality Psychology
Lecture #11 (03/23/2009)
Personality and Psychopathology
What is abnormal psychology?
Scientific study of unusual and/or maladaptive thoughts and behavior
How do we define abnormal?
Statistical infrequency and/or deviatio[intelligence is normally distributed, but is
higher end of spectrum abnormal?]
Discouraged by cultural norms
Impairs important daily functions (e.g., work, relationships, housework, etc.)
Distressing to self and/or other people
All of these have problems with them, so we need a definition that includes multiple factors.
What is an abnormal personality?
Difficulty getting along with other people
Irritable, hostile, fearful, or manipulative
Pattern of behaviors deviates markedly from society's expectations (the concept of being
normal shifts from society to society)
Pattern is inflexible, appears across a broad range of situations, and has a long duration
- Often begins in childhood/adolescence
For some contexts, some of these ways of behaving will be quite functional.
Difference or Extremity?
Categorical models (Type Based): qualitative breaks (tends to be favored in psychology)
aka [taxonomic model] distinct categories or taxa
Either have the disorder or do not have it (i.e., you are abnormal or normal)
Still dominant in psychiatry / clinical psychology
If you fit a certain number of symptoms, you are put into a certain category.
What we call disorders are extremes of common ways of behaving. An extreme
overabundance or extreme deficit. So in that sense we may be more inclined to adopt a
dimensional model which treats all of these ways of behaving along some trait like
dimension. And there are gradations of lets say narcissism or anti-social behavior. Dimensional models (Trait Based): quantitative degrees (this is gaining some gaining
some ground in both medicine and clinical psychology, looking at things in terms of
degrees rather than gaps or types.) [ one of the reasons is, because it has been shown to
work] You see a bell curve in this case, rather than just two separate groups. Statistical
model fits better with dimensional approach as opposed to categorical approach as well.
Disorders are exaggerations/deficits of aspects seen in many normal individuals
Specific patterns of aspects comprise disorders
Advocated by many modern theorists
One big problem with the categorical approach is that a lot of personality disorders
are co-morbid with each other. If you have one you tend to have another one, given
that it becomes very hard to put people into one category into one or the other, if
they share symptoms which overlap between categories where do put them? And if
we put them in both it betrays the idea that categorical models are useful in the first
Personality Disorder Clusters
Personality disorders in manuals are clustered into 3 groups.
Derives from categorical approach
Note: Debate exists about use of categories; comorbidity of disorders is very
Cluster A: odd/eccentric
Paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal
Cluster B: dramatic/erratic
Anti-social, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic
Cluster C: anxious/inhibited
Avoidant, dependent, obsessive-compulsive
odd/eccentric, dramatic/erratic, anxious/inhibited these terms describe whats in
these categories, but it doesnt mean that these categorizations have similar cause or can be treated
by similar therapeutic methods.
Can have very divergent causes leading to very phenotypically very similar types of behavior.
One reason there is a debate about category treatment of these disorders is the high co-morbidy
which means two or more diseases/disorders go together. For example ppl with alcohol use
often have problems with cigarette-use. Obesity would be co-morbid with heart disease.
The fact that a person qualifies for one personality disorder, 3/4ths of them would also qualify as
having symptoms of another personality disorder. This should make us question whether these are
really separate categories or not. Sizable proportion of US citizens have a disorder