Chapter 1: Looking at Abnormality January 9, 2008
maladaptive for behaviors and feelings that are highly unusually or deviant. There are three
components of maladaptiveness:
1. Dysfunction: the behaviors or feelings prevent the person from functioning in daily life
2. Distress the behaviors or feelings cause the person or others significant distress
3. Deviance the behavior or feelings are highly unusual
x Culture and gender can affect maladaptive behavior:
1. It can influence how likely it is that a maladaptive behavior will be shown
2. It can influence the ways people express distress or lose touch with reality
3. ,WFDQLQIOXHQFHSHRSOH¶VZLOOingness to admit to maladaptive behaviors.
4. It can influence the types of treatments people will accept.
Historical Perspectives on Abnormality
x 3 types of theories of the causes of abnormal behavior gave competed for dominance across time. The
biological theories saw abnormal behavior as similar to physical disease caused by the breakdown of
systems in the body, the cure was the restoration of the body to good health. The supernatural
theories saw abnormal behavior as a result of divine intervention, curses, demonic possession and
personal sin. To rid the person of the disorder, religious rituals, exorcisms, confessions, and
atonement were prescribed. The psychological theories saw abnormal behavior as a result of
traumas, such as bereavement or chronic stress. Relaxation, a change of environment and certain
herbal medicines were helpful for the afflicted person.
Evil spirits of the Stone Age
x Prehistoric people had a concept of insanity, one rooted in supernatural beliefs. Demons and ghost
were the cause of abnormal behavior and if a person acted oddly he or she was suspected of being
possessed by evil spirits. The treatment for this was exorcism²driving evil spirits from the body of
the suffering person.
x During the Stone Age one treatment was to drill holes in the skulls of people displaying abnormal
behavior which allowed the evil spirits to depart. The tool used for this drilling is called a trephine
and the operation is called trephination.
Ancient China: Balancing Yin and Yang
x Ancient Chinese medicine was based on the balancing of the bodies Yang (positive forces) and Yin
(negative forces), which confronted and complemented each other. If the two forces were in balance
the individual was healthy if not, illness, even insanity could result.
x Chinese medical philosophers thought human emotions were controlled by internal organs. The
ancient Chinese perspective on psychological symptoms were largely a biological theory in ancient
times, the rise of Taoism and Buddhism led to some religious interpretations of abnormal behavior,
such as evil winds and ghosts were blamed for bewitching people.
x Some of the earliest medical writings on mental disorders came from ancient Chinese texts.
Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Biological Theories Dominate
x Some of the earliest written references to abnormal behavior can be found in Chinese medical text
around 2674 B.C. and then in the papyri of Egypt and Mesopotamia, in the Old Testament and in the
writings of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers and physicians. Abnormal behaviors were
described as medical disorders in these ancient writings, although there is also evidence that they
were viewed as due to supernatural forces.
x According to Hippocrates, the body was composed of 4 basic humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile,
essential humors. He classified abnormal behaviors into epilepsy, mania, melancholia, and brain
fever. He also recognized hysteria, but it was not viewed as a mental disease.
x The middle ages were dominated by an obsession with witchcraft and supernatural forces. Between
the 11th and 15th century.