PSYC 235 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Presenting Problem, Anxiety Disorder, Behaviorism

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Published on 22 Nov 2012
Chapter 1 - Historical Background
What is a Psychological Disorder?
No one criteria fully defines abnormality
Psychological dysfunction: breakdown in cognitive, emotional or behavioural
Criteria for defining a psychological disorder:
1. Psychological dysfunction
2. Distress or impairment
3. Atypical response or not culturally expected
Phobia: psychological disorder characterized by marked and persistent fear of an object
or situation
Personal Distress
Can’t define psychological disorder by distress alone
o E.g. Jody was distressed in his phobia of blood
o E.g. many people consider themselves shy or lazy, not abnormal
If it’s to an extreme social functioning is impaired
Atypical or Not Culturally Expected
o The more productive you are in society, the more eccentricities are tolerated
o Sometimes defining abnormal means deviating from the average, but not all the
o If you are violating social norms it is abnormal
o E.g. entering a trance or state isn’t normal in Western culture but is in
many other societies
o E.g. Masai woman crazy for killing a goat and hearing voices (only Masai
men kill goats, hears voices at the wrong times)
o The best we can do define disease or disorder is to consider how it matches a
“typical” profile of a disorder
o Prototype: when most of or all symptoms that experts agree are part of the
disorder at the present
o the patient may have only some features or symptoms that experts agree
are part of the disorder and still meet the criteria for the disorder
o Szasz and Albee highly critical of medical diagnoses being used in the case of
psychological disorders
o Szasz mental illness is a myth
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o Albee biggest mistake made by clinical psychologists is uncritically
accepting the concept of “mental disease” and using the medical model
and associated diagnosis in conceptualizing abnormal behaviour
Psychopathology: scientific study of psychological disorders
Psychological disorder: psychological dysfunction associated with distress or
impairment in functioning that is not a typical or culturally expected response
Professional psychologists are regulated by the College of Psychologists of Ontario
o Only can be called psychologists
Counselling psychologists: study and treat adjustment and vocational issues
encountered by relatively healthy individuals
Clinical psychologists: concentrate more on psychological disorders
Psychiatrist: investigates the nature and causes of psychological disorders, often from a
biological view, make diagnoses, and offer treatments
o M.D. from medical school
o Specialize in psychiatry in a 3-4 year residency
Psychiatric social worker:
o masters in social work
o treat disorders
Psychiatric nurses: advanced degrees and specialize in the care and treatment of
patients with psychological disorders
Marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors:
o 1-2 years of a masters
o under supervision of a doctoral level clinician usually in hospitals or
Scientists practitioners:
o consumer of science
o enhancing practice
o evaluator of science
o determining the effectiveness of the practice
o creator of science
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o conducting research that leads to new procedures useful in
e.g. new “miracle cures reported to media would not be
used by a scientist-practitioner who did not have sound
scientific data showing they work
Studying psychological disorders:
1. Clinical description
2. Causation
3. Treatment and outcome
Presenting problem: original complain reported by the client to the therapist. The
actual treated problem may sometimes be a modification derived from the presenting
Clinical description: details of the combination of behaviours, thoughts, and feelings of
an individual that make up a particular disorder
o What makes the disorder different from normal behaviour or from other
Prevalence: how many people in the population as a whole have this disorder?
Incidence: how many new cases occur during a period?
Sex ratios: % of males to females with disorder
Age of onset: differs from one disorder to another
Most disorders follow a certain individual pattern or course
Course: pattern of development and change of disorder over time
o Chronic: last a long time (e.g. schizo)
o Episodic: likely to recover within months only to have a recurrence later.
Pattern may be repeated (e.g. mood disorders).
o Time- limited: will improve without treatment in a relatively short period
Acute onset: sudden disorder development
Insidious onset: develops gradually over time
Prognosis: anticipated course of a disorder
Age is important in the clinical description
e.g. children present their symptoms often different from adults, like an anxiety
disorder. Children will assume they are physically ill and are often misdiagnosed
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