Lecture #11 (03/23/2009)
What is abnormal psychology?
Scientific study of unusual and/or maladaptive thoughts and behavior
How do we define “abnormal”?
• Statistical infrequency and/or deviation
• Discouraged by cultural norms
• Impairs important daily functions (e.g., work, relationships, housework, etc.)
• Distressing to self and/or other people
All of these have problems with them, so we need a definition that includes multiple factors.
What is an abnormal personality?
• Difficulty getting along with other people
– Irritable, hostile, fearful, or manipulative
• Pattern of behaviors deviates markedly from society's expectations
• Pattern is inflexible, appears across a broad range of situations, and has a long duration
- Often begins in childhood/adolescence
For some contexts, some of these ways of behaving will be quite functional.
Difference or Extremity?
• Categorical models: qualitative “breaks” (tends to be favored in psychology)
aka [taxonomic model] distinct categories or taxa
– Either have the disorder or do not have it (i.e., you are “abnormal” or “normal”)
– Still dominant in psychiatry / clinical psychology
• If you fit a certain number of symptoms, you are put into a certain category.
• What we call disorders are extremes of common ways of behaving. An extreme
overabundance or extreme deficit. So in that sense we may be more inclined to adopt a
dimensional model which treats all of these ways of behaving along some trait like
dimension. And there are gradations of let’s say narcissism or anti-social behavior. • Dimensional models: quantitative “degrees” (this is gaining some gaining some ground in
both medicine and clinical psychology, looking at things in terms of degrees rather than
gaps or types.) [ one of the reasons is, because it has been shown to work] You see a bell
curve in this case, rather than just two separate groups. Statistical model fits better with
dimensional approach as opposed to categorical approach as well.
– Disorders are exaggerations/deficits of aspects seen in many “normal” individuals
– Specific patterns of aspects comprise disorders
– Advocated by many modern theorists
Personality Disorder Clusters
Personality disorders in manuals are clustered into 3 groups.
• Derives from categorical approach
– Note: Debate exists about use of categories; comorbidity of disorders is very
Cluster A: “odd/eccentric”
Paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal
Cluster B: “dramatic/erratic”
Anti-social, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic
Cluster C: “anxious/inhibited”
Avoidant, dependent, obsessive-compulsive
“odd/eccentric”, “dramatic/erratic”, “anxious/inhibited” these terms describe whats in
these categories, but it doesn’t mean that these categorizations have similar cause or can be
treated by similar therapeutic methods.
Can have very divergent causes leading to very phenotypically very similar types of behavior.
One reason there is a debate about category treatment of these disorders is the high co-morbidy.
Two or more diseases/disorders go together. For example ppl with alcohol use often have
problems with cigarette-use. Obesity would be co-morbid with heart disease.
The fact that a person qualifies for one personality disorder, 3/4ths of them would also qualify as
having symptoms of another personality disorder. This should make us question whether these
are really separate categories or not. We see a strong gender bias in hospitalizations in mental disorders.
It could mean there is a diagnostic bias, such that behaviors that are typical of women, either
naturally or by socialization tend to be viewed as maladaptive. (freud development of women
seen as abnormal male development)
It could be that women actually have more mental disorders than men.
It could be cuz women are exposed to more stresses in life.
When we look at personality disorders we again see a higher trend in women to be hospitalized
for this than men.
A lot of the personality disorders will be characterized by excess or deficit in one or more of the
following : Thought, emotion, interpersonal relationships or motivation
Paranoid Personality Disorder (related to authoritarianism)
People who would be diagnosed with this (not people that have, cuz some of these claims are not
as backed up by empirical evidence as we would like).
• Distrusting, suspicious of other people’s motives
• Misinterpret interactions (e.g., assuming hidden meanings in conversation) [even normal
think ‘oh wht did my wife mean by that, now think how it would be for people that
assume hidden meaning by default]
• Self-righteous beliefs
We all feel this at some point, and if we have had a string of bad interpersonal interactions it
tends to make this tendency even stronger. So we can fall into these temporary periods of
Paranoia in certain settings/environments could be useful. Example : prison (don’t trust
anybody, you would be acting paranoid. But do u have a paranoid disorder? NO, it’s a response
to a very extreme situation.
All of us think about these things, but some people think about it too much to the point where it
becomes an impediment. Schizoid Personality Disorder (this one and the one that follows Schizotypal Personality
Disorder have some things in common with schizophrenia)
• People tend to show Prolonged detachment from social relationships (not just “I had a
bad break up and I need some time to myself”,but we are talking about people that since
birth really dislike social relationships, having very little interest in dealing with other
people, presence of other people is an intrusion, wanna be left alone. Happiest being left
alone, relationships are a chore for them it is hard for them. ; perceptions of self-
– Other people are “intruding”
– Relationships are a “chore”
• Restricted range of emotional expression (“flat affect” don’t get really excited or get
really agitated about things, not highs or lows, there is a restricted range)
• Indifference to criticism (don’t care what you think of them, you like them or not they
don’t care. Behavioral reinforcement or punishment may not work)
So, schizoid and schizophrenia are not the same thing. B