Chapter 1: Introduction: Historical and Scientific Considerations
1. Be able to explain the meaning of stigma as it applies to people with mental illness.
2. Be able to describe and compare different definitions of abnormality.
3. Be able to explain how the causes and treatments of mental illness have changed over the course
4. Be able to describe the historical forces that have helped to shape our current view of mental
illness, including biological, psychoanalytic, and behavioral views.
5. Be able to describe the different mental health professions, including the training involved and the
The study of psychopathology is a search for the reasons why people behave, think, and feel
in abnormal—unexpected, sometimes odd, and possibly self-defeating—ways. Unfortunately,
people who exhibit abnormal behavior or have a mental illness are often stigmatized. Reducing
the stigma associated with mental illness remains a great challenge for the field.
In evaluating whether a behavior is abnormal, psychologists consider several different
characteristics, including personal distress, disability, violation of social norms, and
dysfunction. Each characteristic tells something about what can be considered abnormal, but
none by itself provides a fully satisfactory definition. The DSM-IV-TR definition includes all of
Since the beginning of scientific inquiry into abnormal behavior, supernatural, biological, and
psychological points of view have vied for attention. More supernatural viewpoints included
early demonology, which posited that mentally ill people are possessed by demons or evil
spirits, leading to treatments such as exorcism. Early biological viewpoints originated in the
writings of Hippocrates. After the fall of Greco-Roman civilization, the biological perspective
became less prominent in Western Europe, and demonological thinking gained ascendancy, as evidenced by the persecution of so-called witches.