Intro to Abnormal Psychology- Lecture 1
What is abnormal behaviour?
1) Using statistical criteria to define what abnormal behaviour is.
- what deviates from the mean
- 2/3rd of the population is in the middle is what is considered "normal"
- if you are in the 1/3rd that is above or below the norm is considered abnormal
e.g. scoring below 70 on an IQ test will label you as having "mental retardation",
however this can be called because it does not take adaptiveness into account.
- when you look at the top % though, most things (e.g. intelligence) are seen to be
positive, therefore they are not truly abnormal/ pathological.
- opposites --> things that most people engage in that is supposed to be abnormal
e.g. substance abuse.
2) Cultural norms need to understand what abnormal is in different social and
--> potential for cultural bias when looking at statistics.
Cultural relativism: no universal standards or rules exist for labelling a behaviour as
abnormal. Instead, behaviours can be abnormal only relative to cultural norms.
3) Unusualness: suggests that behaviours are unusual, or rare, behaviours should
be labelled abnormal.
4) Discomfort: behaviours or emotions that an individual finds distressing should be
5) Mental illness: behaviours resulting from mental illness are abnormal.
--> Schizophrenia is the one pathology that most society believe to be abnormal.
--> symptoms incluse delusions, hallucinations and psychosis.
5 kinds of hallucinations:
1) Auditory: most common
5) somatosensory (touch)
have to consider what is normal for different people in different contexts e.g. age and
3) Developmental stages have different norms.
- the greater the devotion from the developmental norm, the greater the concern.
However, faster development is seen to be more positive than slier development,
even when the eventual outcome is the same. 4) Frequency, intensity and duration
Frequency: how often you do something e.g. compulsively pulling out grey hair
Intensity: The quantity of doing something e.g. finding a clump of grey hair and
pulling it out.
Duration: The time period you do something for e.g. spending 3-4 hours a day
looking for grey hair to pull out.
How are abnormal behaviours understood?
--> etiological models of abnormal behaviour
1) The medical disease model (primary model used right now)
2) The environmental model
1) Medical Disease Model (MDM)
1/5 people will experience a significant psychological disorder in their lifetime.
1/10 people our age already experience a significant psychological disorder.
- common misperception that anxiety is a bad thing, which it always is not.
1) What is Anxiety?
- it is considered normal to experience anxiety.
- a basic emotion.
- helps us to adapt to the changing world.
- intimate relationship between emotions and motivation. Can change your priority of
tasks and can affect emotions.
- becomes maladaptive or dysfunctional when your emotions exceeds the level
necessary for a certain environment.
- becomes maladaptive when your level of anxiety is so high that you cannot adapt to
- An unpleasant emotional state ranging from mild unease to intense fear.
- A certain amount of anxiety, however, is normal and serves to improve
- anxiety rouses you to action. It gears you up to face a threatening situation. It
makes you study harder, or keeps you on your toes when you're making a speech. In
general, it helps you cope. - it is not possible to avoid anxiety.
How do we measure anxiety:
- at what point is it psychopathological?
- statistically, 1 s.d. from the norm.
- anxiety has 3 components:
1) Psychophysiological (physical/ biological): symptoms such as palpitations (racing
heart) and sweating.
- startled response (wide eyed, attention focused on response), pupil dilation,
increased concentration, increased heart rate.
- fight or flight.
- do not use your cortex--> reflex reactions. starts in the brain stem.
- the preferable adaptive response is flight.
- the gross measure of anxiety.
- increased arousal, not just of anxiety, but other emotions as well.
- other emotions may cause the same reactions, therefore, cannot use emotions as
the most common measure of testing for anxiety.
2) Psychological component characterized by irritability, lack of concentration and
feelings of fear.
- likert scale
- self report.
- on a scale range 1-10 how anxious are you etcetc.
- lot of subjectivity.
- does the self report accurately reflect the state a person is in, not always.
3) Interpersonal component (psychosocial):
- observational method.
- cross cultural physiological expression.
- an inclination to cling to other people for reassurance.
- high level of subjectivity.
Anxiety vs Fear.
- anxiety is generated when we perceive to be threatened (be it real or unreal)
- an irrational fear of something that is not real --> a phobia
- Fear is considered to be a closely related emotion. It is a response to a direct threat
(such as riding a roller coaster)
- the perception of a threatening stimuli is registered in the frontal loves of the brain,
after limbic system processing.
- the thirsty hungry horny part of the brain (hypothalamus)
- where the emotion is being generated.
it's two way communication. Motivation can also influence emotions, not just the
other way around. - the part of the brain that controls anxiety is the amygdala.
- information sent from the amygdala to the frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex, which
is where the coordination of all emotion occurs.
- prefrontal cortex control judgments, decision making and problem solving.
- Gabba --> drugs that make you feel less anxious, are also addictive
- hence used on a short term basis.
- known as benzodiesamines.
- example of damage to pre-frontal cortex --> Phineas Gage. Showed a distinct
behavioural change where his emotions were not well coordinated any more.
- how to image the brain without opening the skull:
- Structural and Funtional Imaging
(fMRI: functional MRI --> shows activation of limbic and basal gangling structures in
a patient suffering a panic attack)
(structural: CAT scans --> uses radioactive materials to look into the brain. MRI -->
uses magnetics to see parts of the brain)
- The function of anxiety and emotions:
1) Emotions are part of a management system to co-ordinate each individual's
multiple plans and goals under constraints of time and other resources.
2) Emotions are part of biological solution to the problem of how to plan and to carry
out action aimed at satisfying multiple goals in environments which are not perfectly
- if you don't have an intact amygdala it leads to a lack of neophobia --> fear for
- Kluver Bucy syndrome --> bilateral damage to your amygdala (both left and right)
- The right amygdala appears to be more significant in the causation of anxiety than
the left amygdala
- hypothalamus is involved in the conception of motivation. Amygdala is involved in
the generation of anxiety. Info sent from hypothalamus to the amygdala to the frontal
lobe of the cerebral cortex --> which is in charge of the coordination of all emotion.
Functions of the pre frontal cortex: judgement, decision making, problem solving
pharmacological treatment: stimulate an increase of inhibitory neurotransmitters in
the amygdala --> chemicals that are released that slow it down.
Cognitive treatment: meditation.
2) Anxiety Disorders.
- the function of anxiety: help us to prioritize what is necessary and how to plan and
carry out actions in the environment which are are perfectly predictable.
- anxiety is a functional and adaptive behaviour.
- helps us to prioritize goals.
- anxiety becomes pathological when there are feelings of excessive apprehension.
- frequency, intensity, duration all increase to an unhealthy degree. - increased physiological arousal and feelings of apprehension.
- Most common anxiety disorder: GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) :
chronic high level of anxiety not tied to any specific threat.
no perceived or real threat.
Depression is comorbidly diagnosed with depression.
- constant state of struggle.
- seldom happy.
- 4% of the population currently suffer from GAD.
- more common in women than men.
- Freud: Anxiety disorders were created in order to ignore Id impulses --> neurosis.
- Most contemporary theories tend to suggest biological causes due to strong
relationship with family history.
- there are multiple kinds of Anxiety disorders:
1) Panic disorder with/without agoraphobia
2) Social Phobias
3) General Anxiety Disorder
4) Obsessive Compulsive disorder
5) Post Traumatic Stress disorder and Acute Stress Disorder
- irrational or consistent fear of things that cause no real threat
- insect fears are the most common.
- overwhelming anxiety that occurs suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly.
- don't last long
- very intense
- overwhelming feeling of apprehension
- can occur spontaneously on their own.
- sometimes can have triggers.
- usually recurrent
- psychosis: loss of touch with reality.
- depersonalization. lose touch with who you are, where you are etcetc.
- degrees of panic attacks, panic attacks are relatively common.
- HEART PALPILATIONS
- TINGLING INT HE EXTREMETIES
- SHORTNESS OF BREATH
- SWEATING OR HOT AND COLD FLASHES
- TREMBLING OR CHEST PAINS - FAINTNESS, DIZZINESS OR A FEELING OF UNREALITY.
- 2% of the population suffer from recurrent panic attacks.
- more common in women than in men.
Treatments for Panic Disorders:
1) Tricyclic antidepressants:
- increase the levels of norepinepherine and other neurotransmitters
2) Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors:
- increases levels of seratonin in the system
- suppress the CNS and influence functioning in the GABA, norepinephrine, and
seratonin neurotransmitter systems.
4) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- teaches clients ways to reduce anxiety symptoms, to reinterpret the symptoms in a
- systemic desensitisation
- fear of open spaces (public spaces) and going outside.
- frequently diagnosed comorbidly with panic attacks.
- fear of being in public or going outside.
- that fear can trigger a panic attack.
- it is frequently a complication of panic disorder.
-obsessive compulsive disorder.
- realize that it is irrational but they cannot control it.
- persistent uncontrollable unwanted thoughts.
- anxiety, and the only way to deal with the anxiety is to engage in ritualistic
- attributed to the experience of a major traumatic event.
- sufferers repeatedly re-experience the traumatic event
- are hyper vigilant and chronically around
- occurs after traumas which shatter people's assumptions that they are invulnerable
- often co-morbid with depression and anxiety disorders
- the most effective treatment is psychotherapy, through exposure to memories of the
trauma and then extinguishing fears through systemic desensitisation.
- Benzodiazepines and antidepressant drugs can also quell some PTSD symptoms.
MoodDisorders: - Disorders of sad affect (emotion)
- opposite of depression= mania (abnormally happy)
- flat affect (no emotion at all) (no effective response. not a component of
- the axial system of mood disorders will be dropped in the DSM V
- unipolar disorder and bipolar disorder
- anxiety and depression are frequently comorbid
- the prevalence of depression is 1/5
- differences between anxiety and depression: