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Chapter 1

Psychology 2030A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Doctor Of Psychology, Doctor Of Education, Psych

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Psych 2030
Chapter 1: Abnormal Behavior in Historical Context
What is a Psychological Disorder?
A psychological disorder is a psychological dysfunction within an individual
that is associated with distress or impairment in functioning and a response
that is not typically or culturally expected
A phobia is a psychological disorder characterized by marked and persistent
fear of an object or situation
3 categories to a psychological disorder: psychological dysfunction, personal
distress, and atypical or not culturally expected
1) Psychological dysfunction:
Psychological dysfunction refers to a breakdown in cognitive, emotional, or
behavioral functioning
Many people experience mild versions of reactions consistent with phobias
without meeting the criteria for the disorder; knowing where to draw the
line between normal and abnormal dysfunction is often difficult. For this
reason, these problems are often considered to exist on a continuum or as a
dimension, rather than as categories that are either present or absent
Definition of continuum: A continuous sequence in which adjacent elements
are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are
quite distinct
Definition of dimension: An aspect or feature of a situation, problem, or thing
2) Personal Distress
This criterion of a disorder is satisfied if the individual is extremely upset. By
itself, this criterion does not define abnormal behavior (there are certain
situations where being distressed is normal, i.e. death of a loved one).
Category is satisfied if the suffering and distress are very much part of life
and that is not likely to change, or, for some disorders, by definition, suffering
and distress are absent
Most psychological disorders are simply extreme expressions of otherwise
normal emotions, behaviors, and cognitive processes
3) Atypical or Not Culturally Expected
At times, something is considered abnormal because it occurs infrequently; it
deviates from the average. The greater the deviation, the more abnormal it is.
Another view is that your behavior is abnormal if you are violating social
norms, even if some people are sympathetic to your point of view (consider
cultural differences: in western culture becoming “possessed is strange and
you’re probably crazy, whereas in other societies it is accepted and or
Harmful dysfunction: useful to determine whether the behavior is beyond
the individuals control (something he or she doesn’t want to do)

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In conclusion, the most widely accepted definition of abnormal is: behavioral,
emotional, or cognitive dysfunctions that are unexpected in their cultural
context and associated with personal distress or substantial impairment in
functioning. This definition is useful but we must pay attention to what is
functional or dysfunctional (or out of control) in a given society.
The best we can do is to consider how the apparent disease or disorder
matches up to a typical “profile” of say depression, or anxiety in each
individual case. We call this typical profile a “prototype”: the patient can have
only some features or symptoms of the disorder (a minimum number), but
not all of them. And still meet the criteria for the disorder because the set of
symptoms is close to the “prototype”.
Very difficult to define “disorder”, a very conceptual concept, based on
observations as opposed to facts. The planning committees of the DSMV are
wrestling with improvements they can make to definitions of “disorder”. To
assist in this process the planning committees have conceptualized 3
research questions for further investigation. First, they will carefully analyze
the concepts that underlie disorders in the DSM-IV-TR, evaluating the degree
to which the concepts conform (or don’t) to the numerous ways we currently
have for understanding disorders. Second, they will survey mental health
professionals worldwide to see whether any striking commonalities in the
concepts of mental disorders used emerged. Finally, using the same survey
process, they will determine what, in the eyes of mental health professionals,
separates people who truly meet the criteria for the disorder from
individuals who have mild form of the same problems that does not interfere
with their functioning. The goal is for these surveys to shed light on the
difficult problem of defining a psychological disorder.
The Science of Psychopathology
Psychopathology is the scientific study of psychological disorders.
Within this field are specially trained professionals, including clinical and
counseling psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric social workers,
psychiatric nurses, marriage and family therapists, and mental health
Clinical psychologists typically receive a Ph.D. following a course of graduate
level study that lasts approximately 5 years. This education prepares them to
conduct research into the causes and treatment of psychological disorders
and to diagnose, assess, and treat these disorders.
Instead of a Ph.D. clinical psychologists sometimes receive a Psy.D. (Doctor of
psychology) degree for which the training is similar to the Ph.D. but with
more emphasis on clinical practice and less on research training. No Psy.D.
programs currently exist in Canada. In Canada regulation of the psychology
profession is under the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories (i.e. in
Ontario professional psychologists are regulated by the College of
Psychologists of Ontario)
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