Abnormal Behaviour: Concepts & Controversies
Misconceptions about abnormal behaviour are common.
The Medical Model Applied to Abnormal Behaviour:
Medical model proposes that it is useful to think of abnormal behaviour as a disease. The rise
of medical model brought improvements in the treatment of those who exhibited abnormal
behaviour. As victims of an illness, they were viewed with more sympathy and less hatred and
- Even after recovery, someone who has been labeled mentally ill may have difficulty
finding a place to live or getting a job.
Diagnosis involves distinguishing one’s illness from another.
Etiology refers to the apparent causation and development history of an illness.
A prognosis is a forecast about the probable course of an illness.
Criteria of Abnormal Behaviour:
Formal diagnoses of psychological disorders are made by mental health professionals. In
making these diagnoses, clinicians rely on a variety of criteria, the foremost of which are the
1. Deviance – their behaviours deviates from what their society considers acceptable.
2. Maladaptive behaviour – their everyday behaviour is impaired
3. Personal distress – troubled by depression or anxiety disorders.
Although two or three criteria might be met, people are often viewed as disordered when only
once criterion is met.
People can be divided into two groups: those who are normal and those who are not.
Psychodiagnosis: The Classification of Disorders
The Multiaxial System
Axes l clinicians use to record most types of disorders. Axes ll is used to list long-running
personality disorders or mental retardation. People may receive diagnosis on both Axes.
The other axes (lll-V) are used to record supplemental information. A patients physical disorders
are listed on Axes lll. On Axis lV the clinician makes notations regarding the types of stress
experienced by the individual in the past year. On Axis V estimates are made of the individuals
highest level of functioning in the past year.
The DSM system has become the dominant classification scheme for mental disorders around
- Critics noted that there is enormous overlap among various disorders in symptoms and
that people often qualify for more than one diagnosis.
- Current categorical approach to pathology should be replaced by a dimensional
approach which would describe disorders in terms of how people score on dimensions.
Everyday problems were added to the diagnostic system so that more people could bill their
insurance companies for professional treatment of the conditions.
1 The Prevalence of Psychological Disorders:
Epidemiology is the study of the distribution of mental or physical disorders in a population. In
epidemiology, the prevalence refers to the percentage of a population that exhibits a disorder
during a specified time period.
- Psychological disorders is roughly 1/3 of the population
- 44% adult pop. will struggle with some sort of psychological disorder
Most common psychological disorders are substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, and
The high prevalence of psychological disorders means that the economic costs of mental illness
in modern societies are enormous.
- Psychological disorders cause about three times as many disability days as
cardiovascular diseases and vastly more than cancer.
Anxiety disorders are a class of disorders marked by feelings of excessive apprehension and
There are four principle types of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, phobic
disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
The generalized anxiety disorder is marked by a chronic high level of anxiety that is not tied to
any specific threat. They tend to have gradual onset, has a lifetime prevalence of about 5% and
is more frequent in females. People in this category worry constantly about yesterday’s
mistakes and tomorrow’s problems. Their anxiety is frequently accompanied by physical