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Ch.1 What is Abnormal Behaviour? This set of notes includes: What is abnormal behaviour? Defining Abnormal Behaviour The Frequency and Burden of Mental Disorders Historical Perspectives (from the roman era till present)

Course Code
Kathy Foxall

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Abnormal Behaviour
describe, explain, predict, and control behaviours considered strange or unusual
What is abnormal behaviour?
many ways of defining abnormality
psychodiagnosis – an attempt to describe, assess, and systematically draw
inferences about an individual’s psychological disorder
a label may therefore be too general—it may describe something other than a
client’s specific behaviours
a label describes only a current condition rather than a past or changing
to explain abnormal behaviour, the psychologist must identify its causes and
determine how they led to the described behaviour
Predicting Abnormal Behaviour
if a therapist can correctly identify the source of a client’s difficulty, he or she
should be able to predict the kinds of problems the client will face enduring
therapy and the symptoms the client will display
research shows that mental health professionals do a poor job of predicting
dangerousness; they tend to greatly over-predict violence
Controlling Abnormal Behaviour
the treatment for abnormal behaviour generally follows from its explanations
Defining Abnormal Behaviour
Conceptual Definitions
deviations from what is considered normal or most prevalent in a sociocultural
Statistical Deviation/deviation from the usual & Violation of Norms
normal = behaviours that occur most frequently in the general population
abnormality= behaviours that are very different form the average
Examples? what is normal or acceptable in one setting or time may be
unacceptable in other
some common (statistically frequent) features are undesirable but may be
considered normal - e.g., anxiety

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fail to take into account differences in place, community standards, and cultural
statistical criteria do not provide any basis for distinguishing between desirable
and undesirable deviations from the norm
Deviation from Ideal Mental Health
focus on achieving positive goal (ideal state) rather than on absence of pathology
difficult to define with any precision
Maslow - self actualisation or creativity
Others - competence, autonomy, resistance to stress (but what if under severe
stress, is the person considered unhealthy?)
Multicultural perspectives
all behaviours come from a culture
major role in understanding human behaviour
proponents of cultural universality focus on the disorder and minimize cultural
factors, and proponents of cultural relativism focus on the culture and on how the
disorder is manifested within it
Cultural universality - assumes that there are a fixed set of mental disorders
across all cultures
othat these disorders are almost the same across all cultures
Cultural relativism - lifestyles, cultural values, world views affect expression of
deviant behaviour
ocultures vary in what they consider to be normal and abnormal - shamans
Practical Definitions
Personal Distress/discomfort
some people seek help because of discomfort, pain
others don't think anything is wrong with THEM
many physical reactions stem from a strong psychological component; among
them, are disorders such as asthma, hypertension, and ulcers, as well as physical
symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, pain, and heart palpitations
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