PS101 Lecture Notes - Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder

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16 Oct 2011
Psychology Study Notes: Chapter 14: Psychological Disorders
By: Yen Hoang
Abnormal Behaviour: Myths, Realities and Controversies:
The Medical Model Applied to Abnormal Behaviour:
o The medical model proposed that it is useful to think of abnormal behavior as a
This point of view is the basis for many of the terms used to refer to
abnormal behavior, including mental illness, psychological disorder and
psychopathology (pathology refers to manifestations of disease)
It gradually became the dominant way of thinking about abnormal
behavior during the 18th and 19th centuries and its influence remains strong
It clearly represented progress over earlier models of abnormal behavior
Prior to the 18th century, most conceptions of abnormal behavior
were based on superstition
o People who behave strangely were thought to be possessed
by demons, to bewitches in league with the devil or the
victims of God’s punishment
Their disorders were “treated” with chants, rituals,
exorcisms and such
If people’s behavior was seen as threatening, they
were candidates for chains, dungeons, torture and
The rise of the medical model brought improvements in the treatment of
those who exhibited abnormal behavior
As victims of an illness, they were viewed with more sympathy
and less hatred and fear
Although living conditions in asylums were typically deplorable,
gradual progress was made toward more humane care of the
mentally ill
o It took time but ineffectual approaches to treatment was
eventually gave way to scientific investigation of the causes
and cures of psychological disorders
It is only an analogy
Medical concepts have proven valuable in the treatment and study of
Diagnosis involves distinguishing one illness from another
Etiology refers to the apparent causation and developmental
history of an illness
Prognosis is a forecast about the probable course of an illness
Criteria of Abnormal Behaviour:
o In making diagnosis, clinicians rely on a variety of criteria:
People are said to have a disorder because their behavior deviates
from what their society considers acceptable
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o What constitutes normality varies somewhat from one
culture to another but all culture have such norms
When people violate these standards and
expectations, they may be labeled mentally ill
Maladaptive behavior:
In many cases, people are judged to have a psychological disorder
because their everyday adaptive behavior is impaired
o This is the key criterion in the diagnosis of substance use
When the use of ie cocaine begins to interfere with
a person’s social or occupational functioning, a
substance-use disorder exists
In such cases, it is the maladaptive quality of
the behavior that makes it disordered
Personal distress:
Frequently, the diagnosis of a psychological disorder is based on
an individual’s report of great personal distress
o This is usually the criterion met by people who are troubled
by depression or anxiety disorders
Depressed people for instance may or may not
exhibit deviant or maladaptive behavior
Such people are usually labeled as having a
disorder when they describe their subjective
pain and suggesting to friends, relatives and
mental health professionals
o Although two or three criteria may apply in a particular case, people are often
viewed as disordered when only one criterion is met
o Diagnosis of psychological disorders involve value judgments about what
represents normal or abnormal behavior
o The criteria of mental illness are not nearly as value free as the criteria of physical
In evaluating physical diseases, people can usually agree that a
malfunctioning heart or kidney is pathological regardless of their personal
However, judgments about mental illness reflect prevailing cultural
values, social trends and political forces as well as scientific
o On occasion, everyone acts in deviant ways, they all display some maladaptive
behavior and everyone experiences personal distress
People are judged to have psychological disorders only when their
behavior becomes extremely deviant, maladaptive or distressing
Stereotypes of Psychological Disorders:
o Three stereotypes about psychological disorders that are largely inaccurate:
Psychological disorders are incurable:
Admittedly, there are mentally ill people from whom treatment is
largely a failure
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However, they are greatly outnumbered by people who do get
better, either spontaneously or through formal treatment
The vast majority of people who are diagnosed as mentally ill
eventually improve and lead normal, productive lives
Even the most severe psychological disorders can be treated
People with psychological disorders are often violent and dangerous:
Only a modest association has been found between mental illness
and violence prone tendencies
This stereotype exists because incidents of violence involving the
mentally ill tend to command media attention
The strongest predictor of violence was past violence and that was
no consistent evidence that psychological disorders uncomplicated
by substance abuse are a significant risk factor for violence, once
you control for past history of violence
People with psychological disorders behave in bizarre ways and are very
different from normal people:
This is true only in a small minority of cases, usually involving
relatively severe disorders
At first glance, people with psychological disorders usually are
indistinguishable from those without disorders
o Even mental health professionals may have difficulty
distinguishing normality from abnormality
The Prevalence of Psychological Disorders:
o Epidemiology: the study of the distribution of mental or physical disorders in a
Prevalence refers to the percentage of a population that exhibits a disorder
during a specified time period
Anxiety Disorders:
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, it’s a natural and common reaction to
many of life’s difficulties
o For some people however, anxiety becomes a chronic problem
These people experience high levels of anxiety with disturbing regularity
Anxiety disorders are a class of disorders marked by feelings of excessive apprehension
and anxiety
Many people who develop one anxiety syndrome often suffer from another at some point
in their lives
Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
o A generalized anxiety disorder is marked by a chronic, high level of anxiety that
is not tied to any specific threat
This anxiety is sometimes called free floating anxiety because it is
People with this disorder worry constantly about yesterday’s mistakes and
tomorrow’s problems
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