Psy240 Chapter 1- Looking at Abnormality
Hincks established an outpatient psychiatric clinic focused on
humanizing mental health problems
o Twin concepts of gradations of normality and of the curability of
many forms of mental disability
Psychopathology: study of people who suffer mental, emotional,
and often physical pain as a result of some form of psychological or
mental disorder. People with psychopathology have experiences that are
familiar to many of us but more extreme.
Mental illness has important consequences in terms of personal, and
Statistically: In Canada, it is found that approximately 7% of people aged
20 or older had been diagnosed with a mental illness, and another 6%
were found to have a diagnosable mental illness. The Mental illness in
Canada accounts for more than 50% of physician billings and results in
more hospital bed-days than cancer.
Abnormality: to define what is abnormal or not is very difficult
because the context or circumstances surrounding a behaviour, influences
whether a behaviour is viewed as abnormal.
Some theorists may argue that deviation from cultural or societal
norms is the only criterion for labeling a behaviour as abnormal.
1. Parallel perspective argues that behaviour become defined as
abnormal is only they violate a cultures gender role.
2. Gender Role: the expectations for the behaviour of an
individual based on his or her gender. How we expect men and
women to act according to their gender.
Other theorists which appear, on the surface, to be more objective
criteria or standards for defining abnormality is that such standards do not
rely on cultural traditions or gender roles.
1. Focus on 1. Unusualness of the behaviour, 2. Discomfort of the
person exhibiting the behaviour, 3. The presence of mental illness
and 4. Maladaptiveness of the behaviour.
Cultural Relativism Psy240 Chapter 1- Looking at Abnormality
Cultural relativism: is a perspective on abnormality that argues the
norms of a society must be used to determine the normality or
abnormality of a behaviour.
Different definitions of abnormality are used across different cultures.
1. E.g. Bereavement practices of cultural relativism. In Western
countries, people are expected to mourn their dead loved ones for a
time then to let go. Those who do not break these bounds after a
period may be labeled as abnormal
During romantic age of nineteenth century, expectations of the
bereaved were radically different from current expectations. People wrote
about their grief in poetries, diaries and fiction.
Thomas Szasz: noted that throughout history, societies have labeled
individuals and groups abnormal to justify controlling or silencing them.
1. Hitler: branded Jews abnormal and used this as one of the
justification for Holocaust.
2. Former Soviet Union branded political rebels as having mental
illness and jailed them
3. Slave trade in US, those who tried to escape is said to suffer
from drapetomania: sickness caused them to desire
freedom. This would allow them to capture them and return
them to their masters.
In modern society, gender role expectations heavily influence the
labeling of behaviours as normal or abnormal.
Problems: Cultural relativist perspective creates many difficulties in
defining abnormality. Whether to recognize the dangers of completely
accepting societys definitions of what is normal and abnormal. Sensitivity
increases. Cultural norms and gender roles strongly influence peoples
feelings and actions.
Behaviours that are unusual, rare, are considered to be abnormal,
whereas behaviours that are typical or usual are considered normal.
Some ties to the relativist criterion as unusualness of any behaviour
is depended on cultures norms for that behaviour.
Problems: 1. Criterion may be objective but someone still has to
decide how rare a behaviour must be to call it abnormal. To choose a cut-
off is as subjective as relying on personal opinions as to what is abnormal
and normal. Psy240 Chapter 1- Looking at Abnormality
2. Many rare behaviours are positive for the individual and for society thus
most people would object to labeling such behaviours as abnormal
Eccentrics: these are people that have hobbies or activities that are
rare but are a source of great joy for them and do not harm to othes. We
say they are gifted instead of abnormal. These people certainly have
unusual tastes but are generally very happy and function well in society
Statistically: Only about 1 in 10 000 people is a true eccentric.
Suggests that only behaviours or emotions that an individual finds
distressing should be labeled abnormal. This criterion avoids the problems
of using societal norms as the criterion for abnormality. If a persons
behaviours violate societal norms but do not cause him or her any
discomfort, then the behaviour should not be considered abnormal.
E.g. Change in behavioural pattern: homosexuality. They argue
that their sexual orientation is a natural part of themselves. It is a
characteristic that causes them no discomfort and that dont want to
alter or eliminate.
If people acknowledge and seek help for their behaviours, we call this
If people suffer no discomfort, and even may experience pleasure at
causing others pain, we call this abnormal
Suggests that only behaviours resulting from mental illness are
Clear, identifiable physical process exists that differs from health and
leads to specific behaviours or symptoms.
To date, no biological tests are available to diagnose any of the
Many theorists believe that most mental health problems are due to a
number of complex biological and psychosocial factors, rather than a
single abnormal genes or disease processes.
That cause people to suffer distress and that prevent them from