A psychological disorder is a psychological dysfunction within an individual associated
with DISTRESS or IMPAIRMENT IN FUNCTIONING and A RESPONSE THAT IS NOT
TYPICAL OR CULTURALLY EXPECTED (atypical response).
o Just having one criterion does not define abnormal behaviour.
Psychological dysfunction refers to a breakdown in cognitive, emotional or
o These problems are considered on a continuum.
o Just having a dysfunction is not enough to meet the criteria for a
Phobia – a psychological disorder characterized by marked and persistent fear of an
object or situation.
Psychopathology is the scientific study of psychological disorders.
Within this field there are specifically trained professionals:
o Clinical psychologists (typically receive Ph.D.)
o Counselling psychologists (sometimes receive Psy.D)
o Psychiatrists (M.D.)
o Psychiatric social workers
o Psychiatric nurses
o Marriage and family therapists
o Mental health counsellors
A scientist-practitioner is a mental health professional that takes a scientific approach to
their clinical work. They can function as a scientist-practitioner in at least one of three
1. Consumer of Science – they keep up-to-date with the latest scientific
developments in their field and therefore use the most current diagnostic and
2. Evaluator of Science – evaluate their own assessments or treatment
procedures to see whether they work.
3. Creator of Science – conducts research that leads to new procedures useful
in practice. Three major categories compose the study and discussion of psychological disorders:
1. Clinical description
2. Causation (etiology)
3. Treatment and outcome
CLINICAL DESCRIPTION behaviours, feelings and thoughts
Presents (presenting problem) – traditional shorthand way of indicating why a person
has come to the clinic.
Describing a patient’s presenting problem is the first step in determining their clinical
description – the unique combination of behaviours, thoughts and feelings that make up
a specific disorder.
Clinical – types of problems or disorders you would find in a clinic or hospital and the
activities connected with assessment and treatment.
An important function of the clinical description is to specify what makes the disorder
different from normal behaviour or different disorders.
Prevalence – How many people in a population as a whole have the disorder?
Incidence – How many new cases occur during a given period, such as a year?
Sex-ratio - What percentage of males and females have the disorder?
The typical age of onset differs from one disorder to another.
Most disorders follow a somewhat individual pattern or course.
E.g. Schizophrenia follows a chronic course, meaning that it tends to last a
long time, sometimes a whole lifetime.
Mood disorders follow an episodic course in which the individual is likely to
recover within a few months, only to have a recurrence of the disorder
Some disorders have a time-limited course, meaning the disorder will
improve without treatment in a relatively short period.
Acute onset – disorders begin suddenly
Insidious onset – disorders develop gradually over an extended time
Prognosis – the anticipated course of a disorder ETIOLOGY
Why a disorder begins? What causes it?
The effect does not imply the cause.
Somatoform – physical symptoms appear but no organic cause
Delusion of persecution – everyone plotting against you
Delusion of Grandeur – you are God
Benzodiazepines – Valium and Librium reduces anxiety
Neuroleptics hallucinations and delusional though processes
Bromides sedating drug Psychosocial focuses on psychological, social and cultural factors
Moral Therapy Treating institutionalized patients as normally as possible
Setting encouraged and reinforced normal social interaction
Relationships were carefully nurtured
Restraint and seclusion were eliminated
Mental Hygiene Movement Dorothea Dix
Psychoanalysis structure of the mind and the role of the unconscious
Unconscious Part of the psychic makeup that is outside the person's
Catharsis release of tension following the disclosure of emotional trauma
Insight fuller understanding of the relationship between current emotions and
Psychoanalytic Model (Freud) seeks to account for the development and structure
of personality, as well as the origin of abnormal
behaviour, based primarily on inferred inner entities
Id – source of our strong sexual and aggressive energies or our instinctual
drives. Pleasure Principle. Primary process.
Ego – ensures we act realistically. Reality principle, secondary process.
Superego – the conscience. Moral principles instilled in us by our parents and
Intrapsychic conflicts the struggles among the id, ego, and superego Defence Mechanisms unconscious protective processes that keeps primitive
emotions associated with conflicts in check so the ego can
continue its coordinating function.