Chapter 2.docx

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Chapter 2: Historical and Contemporary Views of Abnormal Behaviour
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Historical Views of Abnormal Behaviour
Earliest treatment of mental disorders practiced thousands of years ago
o Certain forms (those with headaches, convulsive attacks etc.) medicine man treated by “trephining” i.e.
chipping away one area of the skull with stone instruments until a hole was cut through the skull; this was
thought to allow evil spirits to escape when in fact may have just relieved some pressure
Demonology, Gods, and Magic
Early writings show Chinese, Egyptians, Hebrews, and Greeks often attributed abnormal behaviour to a
demon or god that had take possession of the person
Main treatment for demonic possession was exorcism
Hippocrates’ Early Medical Concepts
Hippocrates, referred to as the father of modern medicine, denies deities and demons intervened in the
development of mental illnesses
Insisted mental disorders had natural causes and appropriate treatments
Believed that mental disorders were due to brain pathology
Emphasized the importance of heredity and predisposition
Pointed out that injuries to the head could cause sensory and motor disorders
Doctrine of the four humours:
o The four elements of the material world (earth, are, fire, water) combined to form the four essential fluids
of the body: blood (sanguis), phlegm, bile (choler), and black bile (melancholer)
o These fluids combined in different proportions within individuals and a person’s temperament was
determined by which of the humours was dominant
o Earliest & longest-lasting typologies of human behaviour: the sanguine, the phlegmatic, the choleric, and
the melancholic Each of these “types” had it’s own personality attributes
Hippocrates considered dreams to be important and developed a basic concept of modern psychodynamic
While he emphasized the natural causes of diseases, clinical observation, and brain pathology as the root of
mental disorder, he had little knowledge of physiology
Early Philosophical Conceptions
The Greek philosopher Plato studied mentally disturbed individuals that committed criminal acts and ways
to deal with them he believed these people should not receive punishment in the same way as normal
o Plato also made provisions for mental cases to be cared for in the community
o Plato viewed psychological phenomena as responses of the whole organism, he emphasized the
importance of individual differences in intellectual and other abilities, and took into account sociocultural
influences in shaping thinking and behaviour
o Plato’s idea of treatment included “hospital” care for individuals who developed beliefs different than the
broader social order where they would be engage in conversations comparable to psychotherapy
Aristotle, a student of Plato, developed descriptions of consciousness
o Held the view that “thinking” as directed would eliminate pain and help to attain pleasure
o Aristotle discussed and rejected the possibility of psychological factors such as frustration and conflict
causing mental disorders
o He subscribed to the Hippocratic theory of disturbances in the bile
Later Greek and Roman Though
Medical practices had developed to a higher level
Pleasant surrounding were considered great therapeutic value for mental patients
Physicians used a wide range of therapeutic measures including diet, massage, hydrotherapy, gymnastics,
and education, as well as some less desirable practices, such as bloodletting, purging, and mechanical
One of the most influential Greek physicians was Galen
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o Made a number of original contributions concerning the anatomy of the nervous system
o Findings were based on the dissection of animals as human autopsies were not allowed
o Galen took a scientific approach to the field dividing the causes of psychological disorders into physical
and mental categories
o Among causes he named were injuries to the head, excessive use of alcohol, shock fear, menstrual
changes, economic reversals, and disappointment in love
Roman physicians…
o Wanted to make their patients comfortable and used pleasant physical therapies such as warm baths and
o They followed the principle contrariis contrarius (opposite by opposite) for example, having their
patients drink chilled wine while they were in a warm tub
Abnormality during the Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages, the more scientific aspects of Greek medicine survived in the Islamic countries of
the Middle East
The first mental hospital was established in Baghdad in 792 C.E.
In these hospitals mentally disturbed individuals received humane treatment
The outstanding figure in Islamic medicine was Avicenna from Arabia, called the “prince of physicians”,
and the author of “The Canon of Medicine”, perhaps the most widely studied medical work ever written
Avicenna frequently referred to hysteria, epilepsy, manic reactions, and melancholia
In Europe during the Middle Ages, scientific inquiry into abnormal behaviour was limited, and the treatment
of psychologically disturbed individuals was characterized more often by ritual or superstition than by
attempts to understand an individual’s condition
Two events of the times was madness and exorcism
Mass Madness
During the last half of the Middle Ages in Europe a peculiar trend emerged in efforts to understand
abnormal behaviour
It involved mass madness: the widespread occurrence of group behaviour disorders that were apparently
cases of hysteria
Whole groups of people were affected simultaneously
Dancing manias (epidemics of raving, jumping, dancing, and convulsions) were reported as early as the
tenth century
One episode that occurred in Italy was known as tarantism a disorder that included an uncontrollable
impulse to dance that was often attributed to the bite of the southern European tarantula or wolf spider. This
later spread to Germany and the rest of Europe where it was known as Saint Vitus dance
o Similar to the ancient orgiastic rites through which people had worshiped the Greek god Dionysus, these
rites had been banned with the advent of Christianity
o They were deeply embedded in the culture, and were kept alive in secret gatherings
o With time, the meanings of the dances changed, the old rites appeared but were attributed to symptoms of
the tarantula’s bite
o The participants were no longer “sinners” but the unwilling victims of the tarantulas spirit
o The dancing became the “cure” and is the source of the dance we know today as the tarantella
Isolated rural areas were afflicted with outbreaks of lycanthropy a condition in which people believed
themselves to be possessed by wolves and imitated their behaviour
Mass madness reached its peak during the fourteenth and fifteenth century a period noted for social
oppression, famine, and epidemic diseases
Today, “mass hysteria” is known as mass psychogenic illness
o It typically involves sufferers mistakenly attributing bodily changes or sensations to serious disease
o Symptoms typically have rapid onset, quickly spreading to others, and have a rapid remission
o Outbreaks generally occur after an environmental event or trigger
o The “index person”, the first person to report symptoms, may be suffering from a genuine medical
condition but misinterprets the significance of symptoms, people nearby learn of this concern, become
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