Abnormal Behavior: Myths, Realities, and Controversies
The Medical Model Applied to Abnormal Behavior
Medical Model: proposes that it is useful to think of abnormal behavior as a disease.
This means we can talk about;
1. Diagnosis: distinguishing one illness from another
2. Etiology: apparent causation and developmental history of an illness(how the illness was
3. Prognosis: forecast of probable course of an illness (how the illness will affect you)
Diagnosis, etiology, and prognosis replaced the superstitions that people believed in the 18
century that if someone was sick or mentally ill they were under witchcraft such as demons,
devils, God's punishment etc.
Criteria of Abnormal Behavior
When making a diagnosis of whether someone is normal or not, doctors rely on a variety of
criteria’s such as,
1. Deviance : people are said to have a disorder if their behavior deviates from what
society considers acceptable (norms).
2. Maladaptive Behavior: people may be judged to have a disorder of their everyday
adaptive behavior is impaired i.e. substance abuse disorders.
3. Personal Distress: i.e. from Depression/anxiety
Normality and abnormality is continuum; meaning that people are judged when their behaviour
becomes extremely deviant, maladaptive or distressing b/c everyone one sometimes acts
devein, displays some maladaptive behaviour and experiences personal distress but when their
behavior becomes abnormal to the extreme that’s when they are judged.
Stereotypes of Psychological Disorders
Three stereotypes about psychological disorders those are largely inaccurate;
1. Psych Disorders are incurable 2. People with Psych disorders are often violent and dangerous.
3. People with psych. disorders behave in bizarre ways and are very different from normal
Psycho-Diagnosis: The Classification of Disorders
DSM scale used to diagnose disorders for patients. Divided into 5 axis or dimensions
- Axis I: (Clinical disorders and conditions that need clinical attention) used to make
diagnosis of a condition
- Axis II: (Personality Disorders and Mental Retardation) used to make diagnosis of
- Axis III: (General Medical Conditions such as physical disorders, allergies etc.)
- Axis IV: (Psychosocial stressors & Environmental Problems such as type of stress the
individual felt in the previous year. Example: money problems, divorce, abusive past
history, no social support etc.
- Axis 5: (GAS) still underway
Prevalence of Psych Disorders
Epidemiology: study of distribution of mental/physical disorders in a population.
Prevalence: the percentage of a population that exhibits a disorder during a specific time
a. Lifetime prevalence: the percentage of people who endure a specific disorder at any
time in their lives.
- 1/3 of population suffer from a psych disorder. Most commonly: anxiety, substance use, and
-Depression is referred to as ``the common cold of mental illness``
- Over 10% seek help from a professional
- Another 20% experience serious depressive symptoms for which help is never sought.
- By age 55, 40% of males and 70% of females experience a major depression
- Depression is the third most common health problem
- One in four working Canadians say they suffer from depression – the highest prevalence
ever reported. Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety Disorder: class of disorders marked by feelings of excessive apprehension and
There are 4 types of anxiety disorders;
1. Generalized anxiety disorder,
2. Phobic Disorder
3. Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder
4. Panic Disorder
Disorders may not be mutually exclusive, many who have one anxiety disorder develop another
-Generalized Anxiety Disorder
GAD: marked by a chronic, high level of anxiety that is not tied to any specific threat. i.e. “free
- Worry about minor matters related to family, finances, work, and personal illness.
- Physical symptoms: trembling, muscle tension, diarrhea, dizziness, heart palpations.
- Phobic Disorder
Phobic Disorder: marked by a persistent and irrational fear of an object or situation that
presents no realistic danger.
- Phobias may be common, but people with Phobic Disorders have fears which seriously
interfere with everyday behavior.
- Common Phobias include acrophobia (heights), claustrophobia, brontophobia (storms),
hydrophobia, and various insect/animal phobias.
- People usually realize fears are irrational but are unable to remain calm when
confronted by a phobic object (or even imaging it).
-Panic Disorder and Agorophobia Panic Disorder: characterized by recurrent attacks of overwhelming anxiety that usually occurs
suddenly and unexpectedly. Accompanied by physical symptoms.
- Victim becomes apprehensive, refusing to leave house.
Agorophobia: fear of going out to public places – complication of Panic disorder.
- Typically affects females.
-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
OCD: marked by persistent, uncontrollable intrusions of unwanted thoughts (obsessing), and
urges to engage in senseless rituals (compulsions)
- Obsessions often center on inflicting harm on others, personal failure, suicide, sex acts.
- Victims may feel as though they’ve lost control of their mind
- Typically arises in early adulthood.
Etiology of Anxiety Disorders
- Anxiety disorders develop out of complicated interactions among a variety of biological
and psychological factors
Impact of heredity on Psychological disorders, investigators look at concordance;
Concordance Rate: indicates the percentage of twin pairs or other pairs of relations that exhibit
the same disorders.
- Twin studies suggest low genetic disposition to anxiety disorders.
- Anxiety Sensitivity may make people vulnerable to anxiety disorders.
I.e. Some people are highly sensitive to internal physiological symptoms of anxiety and
prone to overreact with fear when they experience symptoms.
-Link between anxiety disorders and neurochemical activity in the brain.
Conditioning and Learning Factors
- Many anxiety response may be acquired through classical conditioning and maintained
through operant conditioning Example i. originally neutral stimulus (snow) may be paired with frightening event
(avalanche) so it becomes a conditioned stimulus eliciting anxiety. (Example of Classical
Example ii: of Operant Conditioning: Response – person avoids snow, so avoidance
response is negatively reinforced by a reduction in anxiety.
Cognitive Theorists say that certain styles of thinking make some people more vulnerable to
For example: Some people might think in a way where they over interpret harmless situations
as threatening, they pay attention to perceived threats&recall info that seems threatening.
-So some people are prone to anxiety disorders because they see threats in every corner of
- Stress may also contribute to the emergence of anxiety disorders
Dissociative Disorder: people lose contact with portions of their consciousness or memory,
resulting in disruptions in their sense of identity.
There are three types of dissociative disorders;
1. Dissociative Amnesia
2. Dissociative Fugue
3. Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociative Amnesia and Fugue
- It is the sudden loss of memory for important personal info that is too important to be due
to normal forgetting.
- May be for a single traumatic event or extended period of time surrounding the event.
- people lose their memory for their entire lives along with their sense of personal identity.
Example: such as family, where they live, where they work.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) DID: coexistence in one person of 2 or more largely complete and usually very different
personalities (Previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder).
- Each personality has its own name, memories, traits, and physical mannerisms.
Etiology of Dissociative Disorders
- Dissociative Amnesia and Fugue are said to be caused due to extreme stress
-People with Disassociative personality disorder are said to engage in intentional role-playing to
use mental illness as an excuse for their personal failing
-or another cause is b/c of severe emotional trauma that occurred in their childhood
Mood Disorders: marked by emotional disturbances of varied kinds that may spill over to
disrupt physical, perceptual, social, and though processes.
- Tend to be episodic
-There are types of mood disord