PSY 240 CH. 1
Abnormal Psychology:An Overview
• Abnormal psychology is all around us. It can be close to home, or we may just see it in
our daily lives.
• Looking at the specifics of a case and determining whether or not some has a problem is
a question that concerns abnormal psychology.
• Family aggregation: The clustering of certain traits, behaviours, or disorders within a
given family. Family aggregation may arise because of genetic or environmental
• Looking at the commonality among family members is also a question posed by
• Asking questions is a very important aspect of being a psychologist. Psychologists are
trained to ask questions and conduct research.
• Psychology is always changing.Atreatment 10 years ago may be out of date now.
Psychologist need to keep up with the changes in their field in order to best treat their
What Do We Mean By Abnormal Psychology?
• No universal definition of abnormality or disorder. Though we lack a consensus on a
definition, there is still agreement on what constitutes a disorder.
• We develop a ‘prototype model’of abnormality and use it to assess the degree to which a
person resembles it.
1.1 Developments in Research: Do Magnets Help with Repetitive-Stress Injury?
o One form of alternative medical therapy that is growing is the use of magnets.
o They are often marketed to those with hand or wrist pain (repetitive-stress injuries or
RSI). Commonly, this is due to computer use.
o Experiment by Pope and McNally: College students with RSIs were assigned into 1 of 3
groups. Group 1 wore wristbands with magnets for 30 minutes a day, group 2 was given
identical bracelets, but with no magnets, and group 3 received no wristbands.
o Double-blind study: Often used in studies examining drug treatment effects, a condition
where neither the subject nor the experimenter has knowledge about what experimental
condition (or drug) the subject is receiving.
o Placebo: An inert pill or otherwise neutral intervention that produces desirable
therapeutic effects because of the subject’s expectations that it will be beneficial.
o Experiment: Students completed a 4 minute typing test at the start of the study. 30
minutes after wearing the bracelets they did this again. Participants were asked to rate
their pain relief on an 8 point scale.
o Results: Those in the no treatment group did not report reduced pain. They also typed on
average 4 more words in the second trial. Those with the magnets reported pain relief and
typed 19 more words in the second trial. Those who wore the bracelets without magnets
also reported pain relief. They typed 26 more words on average in the second trial.
Therefore, the use of magnets results in effects due to the placebo effect.
1.2 The WorldAround Us: The Elements ofAbnormality • The more likely someone has difficulty in the following areas, the more likely they are to
1. Suffering: If they suffer psychologically, we are inclined to consider this an indication of
2. Maladaptiveness: Maladaptive behaviour is often an indicator of abnormality.
Maladaptive behaviour interferes with our well-being and with our ability to enjoy our
work and our relationships.
3. Deviancy: If something is statistically rare and undesirable, we are more likely to
consider it abnormal than if it is rare and desirable.
4. Violations of the standards of society:Although social rules are arbitrary to some extent,
when people fail to follow the conventional social and moral rules, we may consider their
behaviour abnormal. Though it often depends on the magnitude of the deviance from the
norm, as well as how often other deviate from this norm as well.
5. Social discomfort: When someone violates a social rule, those around them may
experience a sense of discomfort or unease.
6. Irrationality and unpredictability: Akey point to this is whether or not a person can
control this behaviour.
• What is considered abnormal will also vary with the times.
Why Do We Need to Classify Mental Disorders?
• Nomenclature: A formalized naming system.
• Being able to classify something and structure the information is helpful. It allows us to
study the differences and provide a more meaningful treatment.
1.3 The WorldAround Us: Extreme Generosity or Pathological Behaviour?
o Zell Kravinsky grew up in a working0class neighbourhood in Philadelphia. He was
extremely smart but his parents often failed to show him any praise. He went to school
for Asian studies, became a teacher, then went back for 2 PhDs in education and
literature. He was great with investments and soon became a millionaire.
o He had a hard time spending the money, though he began to be very generous in the gifts
he would bestow upon others. It got to the point where he gave away almost his entire
o It got to the point where he volunteered to give away his kidney to a stranger. He still felt
the need to give, and contemplated giving away more organs. He even contemplated
giving away his whole body.
o Is this abnormal?
WhatAre the Disadvantages of Classification?
• Classification provides information in a short-hand form. This can lead to a loss of
information. Loss of personal details results from classification.
• Stigma: Negative labelling.
• There may be a stigma attached to a particular diagnosis. People can fear that there will
be consequences (social, occupational, etc.) for talking about their diagnosis.
• Stereotyping: The tendency to jump to conclusions (often negative) about what a person
is like based on beliefs about that group that exist (often incorrectly) in the culture (e.g.
French people are rude, homosexuals have good taste in clothes, mental patients are
• Labelling: Assigning a person to a particular diagnostic criteria, such as schizophrenia. • Aperson’s self concept may be directly affected by being given a diagnosis.
Table 1.1 Symptoms and Syndromes
o Symptom:Asymptom is a single indicator of a problem. It can involve affect (e.g., sad
mood, anxiousness), behaviour (problem sleeping, lethargy), or cognition (excessive
worry, suicidal thoughts).
o Syndrome:Asyndrome is a group or cluster of symptoms that all occur together. For
example, sad or depressed mood, problems sleeping, concentration problems, weight
loss, and suicidal thinking are all symptoms that reflect the syndrome of depression.
(Note, depression can be a symptom where it refers to a depressed mood, or a syndrome).
• Alabel can be hard to shake, even after the person makes a full recovery.
• Diagnostic classification systems do not classify people, but their disorders.
The DSM-IV Definition of Mental Disorder
• Published in 1994 and revised in 2000.
Table 1.2 DSM-IV Definitions of Mental Disorders
o Aclinically significant behaviour or psychological syndrome or pattern.
o Associated with distress or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more important areas of
o Not simply a predictable and culturally sanctioned response to a particular event (e.g., the
death of a loved one).
o Considered to reflect behavioural, psychological, or biological dysfunction in the
• Careful to assert that mental disorders are always the product of dysfunctions.
• Problems with wording such as ‘clinically significant.’Or how much distress or disability
should one experience before it enters into the realm of a mental disorder?
• Proposed by Wakefield that a mental disorder is a ‘harmful dysfunction.’
Table 1.3 Wakefield’s Definition of a Mental Disorder
o Acondition that:
- Causes significant distress or disability
- Is not merely an expectable response to a particular event, and
- Is a manifestation of a mental dysfunction
• Wakefield refers to harm in terms of social values (suffering, being unable to work, etc.).
• The term mental disorder defies simple, straightforward definitions.
How Does CultureAffect What is ConsideredAbnormal?
• Christian countries try to avoid the number 13, whereas in Japan, they avoid the number
• Many cultures do not have words to mean depression or mental illness. That does not
mean that they are not present within those cultures though.
• Little is known about the cultural aspects of abnormal psychology.
• Certain forms of psychopathy tend to be highly culture specific.
• Abnormal behaviour: Maladaptive behaviour detrimental to an individual and/or group.
• Experiences such as hearing the voices of dead relatives may be considered normal in one
culture and abnormal in another. • There are some behaviours that are generally considered to be abnormal though
(defecating in public, drinking urine, laughing at nothing, etc.)
How CommonAre Mental Disorders?
• Mental health planners need to have the numbers on mental health commonality in order
to determine the amount of resources they need to allocate to it.
• Estimates about frequency of disorders may also give clues as to their causes.
Prevalence and Incidence
• Epidemiology: Study of the distribution of disease, disorder, or health-related behaviours
in a given population. Mental health epidemiology is the study of the distribution of
• Prevalence: In a population, the proportion of active cases of a disorder that can be
identified at a given point in, or during, a given period of time.
• Point prevalence: The number of cases of a specific condition or disorder that can be
found in a population at one given point in time.
• One-year prevalence: The number of cases of a specific condition or disorder that are
documented within a population over a 1-year period.
• Lifetime prevalence: The proportion of persons in a population who have ever had a
disorder up to the time of the epidemiology assessment.
• Incidence: Occurrence (onset) rate of a given disorder in a given population.