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Chapter 1

PSYC 305 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Etiology, Clinical Psychology, Specific Phobia

Course Code
PSYC 305
Laura Hanson

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Chapter One – Abnormal Psychology: An Overview
Abnormal Psychology: Concerned with understanding the nature, causes,
and treatment of mental disorders
Family Aggregation: A disorder that runs in families
The more you know and understand about how research is conducted, the
more educated and aware you will be about what research findings do and
do not mean
What Do We Mean by Abnormality?
No universal agreement about what is meant by abnormality or disorder
Major problem is that there is no one behaviour that makes someone
abnormal, but there are clear elements of indicators of abnormality
No single indicator is sufficient to determine abnormality
Decisions about abnormal behaviour always involve social judgments and
are based on the values and expectations of society
Culture plays a large role in determining what is normal
Karo-Kari: A form of honour killing where a woman is murdered by a male
relative because she is considered to have brought disgrace to her family
1. Suffering
If people experience psychological pain
Not sufficient or necessary condition
2. Maladaptiveness
Often an actual indicator
This behaviour interferes with our well being and ability to enjoy life
Not all disorders involve maladaptive behaviour
Can also have maladaptive behaviour towards society, not just
3. Statistical Deviancy
Usually good traits (a perfect pitch, high intelligence) aren’t
considered abnormal
Statistically common things aren’t always good (the common cold)
Disabilities usually reflect abnormality
More likely to consider things abnormal if they are statistically rare
as well as undesirable
4. Violation of the Standards of Society
All cultures have rules and formalized laws
Some are normal or moral standards people are taught to follow
When people do not follow the rules of society they are considered
abnormal or to have abnormal behaviour

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Sometimes failure to follow rules or norms is common so we don’t
think of it as abnormal anymore
5. Social Discomfort
Violating social rules can make people really uncomfortable
6. Irrationality and Unpredictability
We expect people to behave in certain ways – if they don’t, their
behaviour becomes abnormal
Ex: Disordered speech and ramblings of schizophrenia
7. Dangerousness
Someone who puts themselves in dangerous or puts someone else
in danger makes you believe they are psychologically abnormal
Some exceptions – soldiers, bad drivers
The DSM-5 and the Definition of Mental Disorder
The DSM-5 is the accepted standard for defining various types of mental
In this model a mental disorder is defined as a syndrome that is present in
an individual and that involves clinically significant disturbance in
behaviour, emotion regulation, or cognitive functioning
Disturbances thought to reflect a dysfunction in biological, psychological,
or developmental processes that are necessary for mental functioning
Recognizes that mental disorders are usually associated with distress or
Predictable or culturally approved responses to stressors or losses are
Important that the dysfunction has nothing to do with social deviance or
conflicts the person has with society as a whole
The DSM ensures diagnostic accuracy and consistency
DSM-1 published in 1952
Why Do We Need to Classify Mental Disorders?
Most sciences rely on classification because they provide us with a
nomenclature and allow you to structure information
Allows you to study different disorders and learn more about what causes
them and how they can be treated
Classification of mental disorders has social and political implications
Defining what is pathological establishes the range of problems mental
health professionals can address
Helps delineate which type of psychological difficulties warrant insurance
reimbursement and the extent of such reimbursement

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What Are the Disadvantages of Classification?
Classification provides knowledge in a “short hand form” which leads to a
loss of information
Personal details are important (family, history, personality) and can be
overlooked with classification
Stigma associated with mental illness
Creates stereotypes
A person’s self concept can be affected by labeling them with a diagnosis
Classification does not classify people, it classifies the disorders they have
A person is not their diagnosis
How Can We Reduce Prejudicial Attitudes Toward the Mentally Ill?
Education does not seem to be the solution
Increase in people understanding mental disorders having neurobiological
causes, but it hasn’t decreased the stigma
People have been studied and shown not to want to work with, socialize,
or marry into the family of people with psychological disorders
People understanding the illness doesn’t make them less prejudiced
Stigma can be reduced by having contact with people with illnesses
Simply imagining contact with someone with a mental illness can cause
distress and unpleasant physical reactions (increase in heart rate, tension
in muscles)
People may avoid those with mental illnesses because of the unpleasant
physiological reactions they experience when around them
How Does Culture Effect What We Consider Abnormal?
Within cultures, shared beliefs and behaviours are widely accepted and
may constitute one or more customary practices
There is no word for “depressed” in Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and
Southeast Asian cultures
The way some disorders present themselves may depend on culturally
sanctioned ways of articulating distress
Native Americans report depression in terms of physical terms over
emotional terms and same with the Chinese
Very little psychiatric research comes from outside of Western cultures
Culture Specific Disorders
Some disorders seem to be highly linked to culturally bound concerns
Taijin Kyofusho: An anxiety disorder common in Japan marked by a fear
that one’s body, body parts, or body functions may offend, embarrass, or
otherwise make others feel uncomfortable (body odor, blushing)
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