PSYB32H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Canadian Mental Health Association, Demonology, Dorothy Dix
B32: Abnormal Psychology
Chapter 1: Introduction - Definitional and Historical Considerations, and
Canada’s Mental Health System
As we approach the study of psychopathology, the field concerned with the nature and development of abnormal
behaviour, thoughts, and feelings, we do well to keep in mind that the subject offers few hard and fast answers,
WHAT IS ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY?
Abnormality is usually determined by the presence of several characteristics at one time.
Abnormal behaviour- pattern of emotion, thought, and action deemed pathological for one or more of the
following reasons: infrequent occurrence, violation of norms, personal distress, disability or dysfunction, and
One aspect of abnormal behaviour is that it is infrequent.
The normal curve places the majority of people in the middle as far as any particular characteristic is concerned;
very few people fall at either extreme.
An assertion that a person is normal implies that he/she does not deviate much from the average in a particular
trait or behaviour pattern.
Statistical infrequency is used in diagnosing mental retardation.
oAnything shown to be subnormal (falling below average)
oHallucinations or deep depression
However this gives us little guidance in determining whether someone is suffering from an illness.
Whether the behaviour violates social norms or threatens or makes anxious those observing it. E.g. verbal and
physical attacks, masturbating to feces…weird/unacceptable things.
Antisocial behaviour and compulsive excessive disorder would fall under this.
However some things such as prostitution and criminals violate social norms but they are not studied in this
Social norms are either too narrow or too broad, there is never a clear fine line and will always be changing.
Personal suffering is behaviour that is abnormal if it creates great distress and torment in the person experiencing
oE.g. people experiencing anxiety disorders and depression
However psychopathy would not be considered because they may violate the law without experiencing any guilt,
remorse or anxiety.
Disability or Dysfunction
Disability is impairment or suffering in some important area of life eg. Work or personal relationships
oProblems include: substance abuse, phobia, transvestism,
Not all distress or disability falls into the domain of abnormal psychology.
Distress and disability are considered abnormal when they are unexpected responses to environmental stressors.
oe.g. an anxiety disorder is diagnosed when the anxiety is unexpected and out of proportion to the
Box: Focus of Discovery 1.1 The Mental Health Professions
The training of clinicians takes different forms.
clinicians- a health professional authorized to provide services to people suffering from one or more pathologies.
Clinical psychologist- the special area of psychology concerned with the study of psychopathology, its diagnosis,
causes, prevention, and treatment.
oTypically requires PhD or Psy. D degree
oThe 1995 Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) which allows people’s credentials in any province to
be recognized throughout Canada.
oBut candidates in clinical psychology learn skills in two additional areas, which distinguishes them
from other Ph. D. candidates in psychology
1. they learn the techniques of assessment and diagnosis of mental disorders; that is they
learn the sills necessary to determine that.
2. then they learn how to practice psychotherapy, a primarily verbal means of helping
troubled individuals change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviour to reduce distress and to achieve
greater life satisfaction.
Psychiatrist- a physician (M.D) who has taken specialized postdoctoral training, called a residency, in the
diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental disorders.
oMD degree and has post grad training
oCan give physical examinations, diagnosing medical problems, and the like
oA psychiatric nurse specializes in working in the mental health field
Psychoanalyst- a therapist who has taken specialized post doctoral training in psychoanalysis after earning an
MD or PhD degree.
oMost often, the primary aspect of medical practice in which psychiatrists engage is prescribing
psychoactive drugs- chemical compounds that can influence how people think and feel.
oA psychoanalyst has received specialized training at a psychoanalytic institute.
Social Worker- a mental health professional who holds MSW.
oObtains an MSW (master of social work) degree
HISTORY OF PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
Many early philosophers, theologians, and physicians who studied the troubled mind believed that deviancy
reflected the displeasure of the gods or possession by demons.
demonology- the doctrine that a person’s abnormal behaviour is caused by an autonomous evil spirit.
Examples of demonological thinking are found in the records of the early Chinese, Egyptians, Babylonians, and
Among the Hebrews, deviancy was attributed to possession of the person by bad spirits, after God in his wrath
had withdrawn protection.
Exorcism- the casting out of evil spirits by ritualistic chanting or torture.
oThis took the form of elaborate rites of prayer, noisemaking, forcing the afflicted to drink terrible
tasting brews, and on occasion, they would whip or starve the body.