PSYC 3460 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Normal Distribution, Abnormal Psychology, Mania
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Chapter 1 – Introduction
Psychotherapy: The field concerned with the development of abnormal
behaviours, thoughts, feelings.
Abnormal Behaviour: Include such characteristics as statistical infrequency, violation of
norms, personal distress, disability or dysfunction, and
Most psychological disorders are infrequent in that they happen to affect a very small
percentage of the population
The normal curve is one that places most people in the middle section for a particular trait, and
very few people on either extreme. In this case normalcy is regarded as not deviating from the
This method is good for diagnosing disorders (namely low/high I.Q) but not for explaining why
Violation of Norms
Behaviour can be labelled abnormal if it violates/threatens social norms or causes anxiety in
those watching the behaviour
The problem with violating social norms is that it is too broad/narrow to be an explanation of
abnormal behaviour. I.e. criminals and prostitutes violate ‘social norms’ but do not fall in the
field of abnormal psychology (too broad); and a person who is extremely anxious may fall into
the field of abnormal psychology but not violate any social norms (too narrow)
Also, norms vary from culture to culture
According to this characteristic, a behaviour is considered abnormal if it causes great distress
and suffrage to the person performing it.
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The problem with this is:
a) Not all forms of psychological disorders cause distress (i.e. mania, psychopathy)
b) Not all forms of distress are psychological disorders (i.e. childbirth/hunger)
Disability (impairment in some part of life which is important) is a characteristic of abnormal
The problem with this is the same as that of personal distress (above): i.e. transvestism is
currently diagnosed as a psychological impairment if it distresses the person; however it is not
necessarily a disability. In some cases transvestites live successful lives and only cross dress in
Also some circumstances count as a disability but do not fall in the field of abnormal psychology
(i.e. being too short to play basketball)
The characteristic of personal distress and unexpectedness are closely related
A behaviour is considered abnormal if it personal distress a person feels is unexpected, in that the
distress is out of proportion to the expected response from environmental factors/stressors
I.e. in anxiety disorders, it is considered abnormal because the anxiety is out of proportion to the
situation (worrying money when you are well off). However hunger is not considered abnormal because
the distress which is hunger is expected when you don’t eat.
History of Psychopathology
Before the age of scientific inquiry, anything beyond human control, including psychological disorders
were said to be the cause of supernatural powers.
Demonology: The idea that an evil being, (the devil or demon) may dwell within a person and
control his or her mind and body
Many different religions and cultures believed in this and often sought some sort exorcism to cure the
possession of the person, which usually involved painful, extreme measures.
Trepanning: The making of a surgical hole in the skull in a living person using an instrument
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