Course: PSYC*1000 (DE)
Professor: Harvey Marmurek
Schedule: Summer, 2012
Textbook: Psychology – Tenth Edition in Modules authored by David G. Myers
Textbook ISBN: 9781464102615
Module 47: Introduction to Psychological Disorders
Defining Psychological Disorders
How should we draw the line between normality and disorder?
Psychological Disorders are patterns of thoughts, feelings, or actions that are deviant, distressful, and
dysfunctional. Being different (deviant) from most other people in one’s culture is part of what it takes to define a
psychological disorder. Standards for deviance also vary with time, vary by context and culture. Dysfunction is key
to defining a disorder: an intense fear of spiders may be deviant, but if it doesn’t impair your life it is not a disorder.
ADHD – Normal High Energy or Genuine Disorder?
Why is there controversy over attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder?
5% of children and 3% of teens diagnosed; 2.5% of adults exhibit ADHD symptoms, diagnosed three times
more often in boys than girls. ADHD has associations with abnormal brain-activity patterns. ADHD often coexists
with a learning disorder or with defiant and temper-prone behaviour. ADHD is heritable.
A lawyer is distressed by feeling the need to wash his hands 100 times a day he has no time left to meet with
clients, and his colleagues are wondering about his competence. His behaviour would probably be labelled
disordered, because he is (1) distressed about his behaviour and it is also (2) deviant from the behaviours of those
around him, and (3) dysfunctional-interfering with his day-to-day-life.
Understanding Psychological Disorders
How do the medical model and the biopsychosocial approach understand psychological disorders?
The Medical Model: Pinel insisted that madness is not demon possession but a sickness of the mind
caused by severe stresses and inhumane conditions. Moral treatment, boosting patients’ morale, talking with them,
replacing brutality with gentleness, isolation with activity, filth with clean air and sunshine. Medical model – concept
that diseases have physical causes that can be diagnosed, treated, and in most cases, cured, often through
treatment in a hospital. Recognizable in mental health movement. Mental illness is also called psychopathology that
needs to be diagnosed on the basis of its symptoms and treated through therapy, which may include time in a
The Biopsychosocial Approach: All behaviour arises from the interaction of nature and nurture. Mentally ill
attributes the condition to a sickness but there may also be environmental issues such as habits, skills, etc. Cultures
differ in their sources of stress, and hey produce different ways of coping.
Biological Influences: Psychological Influences:
- evolution - stress
- individual genes - trauma
- brain structure and chemistry - learned helplessness
- mood-related perceptions & memories
- definitions of normality and disorder
Are psychological disorders universal, or are they culture-specific? Explain with examples.
Some psychological disorders are culture-specific. For example, anorexia nervosa occurs mostly in Western
cultures, and taijin-kyofusho appears largely in Japan. Other disorders, such as schizophrenia, occur in all cultures. Classifying Psychological Disorders
How and why do clinicians classify psychological disorders?
In psychiatry and psychology, diagnostic classification aims not only to describe a disorder but also to predict its
future course, imply appropriate treatment, and stimulate research into its causes. To study a disorder we must first
name and describe it. DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, text
revision). Despite its medical technology (diagnosing, symptoms, illness) most practitioners find the DSM-IV-TR a
helpful and practical tool. The aim of DSM-5 is to support the integration of psychiatric diagnoses into mainstream
medical practice. DSM-IV-TR defines a diagnostic process and 16 clinical syndromes. Some critics have faulted the
manual for casting too wide a net and bringing ‘almost any kind of behaviour within the compass of psychiatry’.
Others note that as the number of disorder categories has swelled, so has the number of adults who meet the
criteria for at least one of them (26% in any year and 46% at some time in their lives).
What is the biopsychosocial perspective, and why is it important in our understanding of psychological disorders?
Biological, psychological, and social-cultural influences combine to produce psychological disorders. This broad
perspective helps us understand that our well-being is affected by our genes, brain functioning, inner thoughts and
feelings and the influences of our social and cultural environment.
Labeling Psychological Disorders
Why do some psychologists criticize the use of diagnostic labels?
Once we label a person, we view that person differently. Labels create preconceptions that guide our perceptions
and our interpretations. Misdiagnoses. Coming to understand that many psychological disorders are diseases of the
brain, not failures of character. In real life, people with disorders are more likely to be the victims of violence than the
perpetrators. Labels can serve as self-fulfilling prophecies. Benefits of diagnostic labels – to communicate cases,
comprehend underlying causes, and to discern treatment programs, definitions inform patients’ self-understanding.
Insanity and Responsibility
Legal insanity case; public outrage; most sent to jai