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Ch. 1,2 - Definition/history of abnormality

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University of Toronto St. George

CH. 1-3: DefinitionHistory of Abnormality How is Abnormality Defined? 1. Unusualness or statistical deviation 2. Cultural relativism and social norms 3. Discomfort 4. Mental Illness 5. Maladaptiveness 1. Unusualness or statistical deviation What is normal can be defined statistically by average behaviour; hence, what is abnormal can be defined by what is rare in the population PROBLEM: some rare behaviours are adaptive; some common behaviours are maladaptive 2. Cultural relativism and social norms There are no universal standards for labelling a behaviour as abnormal What is perceived as normal differs between cultures, religious groups, social groups, and age groups, and varies across contexts & time (EX: it is [more] acceptable to get naked @ Mardi Gras, but not in Church) 3. Discomfort Subjectively perceived feelings of distress and having trouble coping with lifes demands are signs of abnormality. PROBLEM: People arent always aware of problems that their behaviour may create for themselvesothers; or their behaviours may cause more discomfort in others than themselves 4. Mental illnessdisease Abnormality is the result of a mental illness or disease Assumes theres a clear, identifiable physical process that differs from health PROBLEM: there is no medical test that identifies this process if it does exist 5. Maladaptiveness The three Ds: - Dysfunction does the behaviour prevent normal daily functioning? - Distress does the person duffer distress? - Deviance is the behaviour highly unusual? This definition is adopted by most diagnostic systems (e.g. DSM-IV) Mental Health Professions: - Psychiatrist - psychologist - Psychiatric nurse - Social worker - Family therapist - Occupational therapist - Family physician
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