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Development of the Field of Abnormal Psychology[change | change source]

Abnormal Psychology typically talks about abnormal behavior. Abnormal behavior is a psychological flaw within an individual that is combined with hardships in functioning and a response that is not ordinary or culturally expected.

Many people try to use abnormal psychology and psychopathology as synonyms, but they are a bit different. Abnormal psychology talks about different behaviors but psychopathology talks about the scientific study behind the psychological disorder.

There are many clinical descriptions when it comes to abnormal behavior. When you go to a hospital, the doctor will usually say the patient “presents” a certain problem. Present typically means why the patient came to the hospital. Presenting the problem is the first step to conclude the patient’s clinical description. A clinical description is a particular combination of behavior, thoughts, and feelings that make up a certain disorder. When the doctor is trying to look for ways to care for the patient, they might look for etiology, which is why the disorder occurred in the first place; it can include biological, psychological or social factors. As the patient is going through treatment, the doctor may say “The prognosis is good.”, prognosis meaning the outcome of the disorder. [1]

History of Abnormal Psychology[change | change source]

For thousands of years, humans have tried to explain abnormal behavior and its causes. The ortgeist, or the spirit of the place, and the zeitgeist, the spirit of the time, are the factors that influence society’s opinion of what is considered normal and what is not. The three different factors that play a part in the development of psychological disorders are biological, psychological, and social factors. Psychologists currently have a better understanding of psychological disorders and their origin than they did before modern medicine and science. Having some understanding of the causes behind abnormal behavior allows individuals to come up with possible treatments that will help the affected person regain control of his or her own behaviors and thoughts. Before modern research, people would receive treatments that may not have been specifically developed for the specific psychological disordered the person suffered from. Instead the treatment for one disorder was used to cure different disorders. Modern psychologist need to have a more thorough understanding of the psychological disorder, its causes, and how it affects the individual in order to determine the appropriate treatment for that mental disorder. The treatment has to take into consideration the three factors that influence mental disorders in order to create specific and effective treatments.[1]

A Supernatural Approach[change | change source]

Humans have attempted to explain and gain control of abnormal behavior since the beginning of human civilization. One approach that has been popular throughout different societies is the supernatural approach. People have recognized agents outside our bodies and environmental forces as possible explanations for abnormal behavior. For examples, for a significant portion of our recorded history, abnormal behavior was considered a product of the fight between good and evil. In the 14th century, the belief in witches and demons became popular as the Catholic Church supported it. The church had split into two branches that competed against each other, one in the south of France and one in Rome. Both religious centers had popes. In order to fight off heresy, the Roman Church decided to fight back. An example of this is when the Catholic Church blamed people for committing one of the seven deadly sins, sloth, after showing signs of stress and melancholy. These symptoms are now thought of as being related to depression. During these problematic times, people began to deal with their problems with the help of sorcery and magic, which directly went against the Catholic Church’s beliefs. As these problem-solving methods became more popular, people began to blame bizarre behavior and their own misfortune on evil spirits that possessed people. Other methods of curing people who showed abnormal behavior included shaving their head in the shape of a cross and forcing them to listen to a Mass.[1] Ancient solutions to free a person from evil spirits included a surgical process called trephination. People who had this surgical procedure done had a hole created on their skull. This procedure would allow evil spirits to flow out of the person. Unfortunately, this also caused the death of the individual.[2] The belief that evil spirits and the devil were behind misfortune and abnormal behavior, whether it was visible on the individual level or large-scale abnormal behavior, carried on to the 15th century with the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts. Other beliefs that were popular, was the belief that the position of the moon and the stars played a role in the behavior of people.[1]

The Biological Approach[change | change source]

Not only were people searching for supernatural causes of abnormal behavior, but also physical explanations as well. The Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) is considered to be the father of modern medicine. Hippocrates and his colleagues wrote the work Hippocratic Corpus, where it was suggested that mental disorders could be treated like any other disease. This was because they believed that psychological disorders could also be caused by injuries to the brain or heredity. Therefore, psychological disorders were believed originate in the brain. Another physician by the name of Galen (129-198 A.D.) adopted Hippocrates’s teachings and developed them further. He then created a school that stressed his teachings. The Humoral Theory of Disorders was developed as a result of the Hippocratic-Galenic teachings. This theory states that brain functioning was related to the balance between four body fluids or humors: blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. An imbalance of the four humors was believed to be the cause of abnormal behavior and disease. Hippocrates had developed an idea that he learned from the Egyptians, which he later named hysteria. Hysteria is what is now known as somatoform disorders. In these disorders, physical symptoms will appear to be a result of medical problems, but have no physical explanations such a paralysis and some forms of blindness. Egyptians and Hippocrates believed that these disorders were only found in women. The theory of the empty uterus resulted from this. This theory states that the empty uterus wandered around the body until the woman had her vagina fumigated or got married. If either practice were performed, the uterus would go back to its original location. However, modern knowledge of the human body has disproved the uterus theory and expanded the idea that somatoform disorders were limited to women. In the 19th century, the symptoms and cures of physical illnesses helped develop the understanding of psychological disorders. For example, the symptoms caused by the sexually transmitted disease called syphilis, along with its cure, helped health professionals develop their understanding of psychological disorders and their treatments. Syphilis causes individuals to behave abnormally, similar to the way people with psychosis behave. Psychosis is a psychological disorder where people experience beliefs and perceptions that are not caused by the real world. As a result of this research, health professionals predicted that psychological disorders could be treated similarly to the way that physical illnesses are treated. A great believer in this theory was a 19th century American psychiatrist, John P. Grey. He believed that psychological illnesses have physical causes and therefore should be treated as physical illnesses. He later decided that because the brain was not fully understood at the time, the disorders were incurable and the patients should be hospitalized. Other approaches that attempt to explain abnormal behavior that results from mental disorders and their treatments include psychological approaches.[1]

The Psychological Approach[change | change source]

Plato believed that the reason behind abnormal behavior was the influence between social and cultural interactions as well as the learning that was taking place at the time. Emotions were believed to overcome rational thinking if something negative happened in one’s environment. Like Plato, Aristotle believed in the importance of the environment when it came to understanding and treating psychological disorders. In the 19th century, health professionals who took a psychological approach to begin understanding abnormal behavior, believed that treating people who have psychological disorders should be treated as normal as possible and should stress their relationships with other people. This approach was called moral therapy. Other physicians believed that the cause of abnormal behavior was due to the imbalance of undetectable fluid found in all living organisms. This undetectable fluid was called “animal magnetism. Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) believed in this as the cause of psychological disorders. Currently, psychologists are attempting to understand the origin of psychological disorders and their treatments as functions affected by social, biological, and psychological factors.[1]

Founder[change | change source]

Before abnormal psychology was accepted as a field, mental disorders and abnormalities were not considered real illnesses by physicians. Those that exhibited signs of mental disturbance were isolated from everyone around them and put into asylums. The only logical cure was to provide the patient with lots of rest and sleep, if that did not work, they performed brain surgeries that often resulted in death. During the Middle-Ages, psychological disorders were believed to be the cause of devils possessing human minds and bodies. The treatment of mental disorders during this time was focused entirely on demons and spirits.[3]. Those who showed symptoms of abnormality were believed to be possessed by the devil and were often tortured or killed off.[4]. As understanding of the brain advanced, the field of abnormal psychology emerged. Many psychologists played a ro le in the advancement of abnormal psychology, one of whom was, Johann Weyer. Johann Weyer (1515-1588) was Dutch physician along with expertise in psychiatry who took psychological illnesses to the next level. He laid the foundation for other psychologists who studied abnormal behavior. He was the first individual of that time to go against beliefs of witch-crafts. He was a big believer of magic and demons which led him to publish, “Pseudomonarchia Daemonum” (1577). This book became one of the most influential works for Sigmund Freud who was another major contributor in the field of abnormal psychology and psychopathology.

Criminal Behavior[change | change source]

There have been many theories as to why criminals act the way they do. One theory is called the Trait Theory, which is a term coined by British psychologist Hans J. Eysenck. This theory is the view that crime is caused by abnormal biological or psychological traits. Trait theory can be traced back to Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso. Lomborso believe that criminals were atavists, which means being able to see ancestral characteristics in modern life. The criminals were thought to be “throwbacks to the prehistoric past” because they had certain identifiable traits. These traits included small skulls, sloping foreheads, jutting eyebrows and ears, bad teeth, excessively long arms, and other traits. Unfortunately, Lombroso’s trait theory has been compared to the “nineteenth century pseudoscience of phrenology” (Schechter).

We now understand that a single feature may not explain all criminality, criminals have different reasoning’s to explain their behavior. There may be different possibilities such as inherited criminals habits, neurological issues, and some research even found that blood chemistry disorders increase antisocial activity. “Chemical and mineral imbalance leads to cognitive and learning deficits…and these factors in turn are associated with antisocial behavior” (Schechter)[5]

Nearly all-psychiatric symptoms may lead to criminality because it can impair judgment and violate societal norms. Some psychiatric conditions that are commonly associated with crime may include: anxiety disorders, delirium, intoxication, mood disorders, traumatic brain injury, impulse control disorder, and much more. These are just some illnesses found in individuals in the criminals justice system. The disorders that are most closely linked to criminality are mood disorders (eg: antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder) and impulse control disorders because according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the symptoms for these disorders include violating the rights of others. [6]

DSM IV[change | change source]

DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and it categorizes mental disorders using five axis.

Axis I: Describes clinical disorders, including mental and learning disorders. Some of the disorders included in this axis include major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, and substance abuse. If someone is diagnosed in this axis, they are likely in many other axis’ as well.

Axis II: Explains personality disorder and mental retardation. This section is broad and contains explanations about how the individual functions with the world around them. Some disorders in this axis include antisocial personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and paranoid personality disorder.

Axis III: This axis includes general medical conditions and physical disorders. Some problems you see in this axis is the dependence of drugs and alcohol which can lead to major depressive behavior.

Axis IV: Psychosocial and environmental problems. In this axis a therapist would look at the patient’s environment to see if it is affecting the patient psychologically. Stress can be the main problem in this axis, so therapists often give the patient a checklist to see if they fit this axis.

Axis V: This last axis is the Children’s Global Assessment Scale and it refers to teenagers under the age of 18. The patient will be given a score from 1 to 100 of how well they handle their difficult situations. [1][7]

Misdiagnosis of Psychological Disorders[change | change source]

Opinions on what is considered normal and abnormal behavior is a product of the cultures in society and the accepted beliefs. Thus, individuals may not have an accurate opinion that is accepted universally because of the different cultures that exist. This implies that what is considered normal and abnormal can lead to misdiagnoses by trained health professionals such as psychologist or psychiatrist. This is due to the fact that health professionals may not always be so accurate when defining the differences between insanity and sanity. An American psychologist named David L. Rosenhan, published his experiment, "On Being Sane in Insane Places," in 1973. His experiment attempted to look at the degree of accuracy in psychiatric diagnoses that took place in 12 different psychiatric hospitals. He used for his experiment, eight sane people, including himself. They were secretly admitted into the psychiatric hospitals and diagnosed with different mental illnesses. The hospitals were located on the west and east coast and varied in quality. As a result of the misdiagnosis of the patients, a question of how accurate trained health professionals' diagnosis was raised.[8]

Development of Therapies[change | change source]

Psychoanalytic Theory[change | change source]

Sigmund Freud has been credited with the development of Psychoanalytic Theory also known as Psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), became a physician after receiving training from University of Vienna. From the beginning, he was not very interested in becoming a physician, so after getting his medical degree, he started working in Ernst Brucke’s lab instead of pursuing medical practice. He was encouraged by Brucke to practice medicine and in doing so; he became interested in the field of neurology. He developed a strong interest in studying the illnesses and disorders associated with the brain. Freud started studying hysteria and found hypnosis to be the appropriate treatment for hysteria.[3]. Freud began to treat patients with hysteria using techniques of hypnosis which seemed to work on several of his patients but not all. The main goal of psychoanalysis is to reduce a person’s internal conflicts that may lead to emotional suffering.[3]. Psychoanalysis combines free association, dream interpretation, and analysis of resistance to treat patients that may have internal conflicts. He started using free association as means of treatment in place of hypnosis to cure hysteria. The technique of free association involves encouraging the patients to speak freely including random utterances while the therapist examines them. Free association encouraged patients to speak whatever was on their minds without consciously thinking about it which helped Freud uncover their hidden thoughts and feelings. Dreams became a major focus of Freud’s therapeutic work on psychoanalysis. He argued that the unconscious produced dreams and they are representations of things we truly desire. He asked his patients to ignore the manifest content, which is the obvious meaning of the dream and only focus on the latent content also known as the symbolic meaning.[4]. According to Freud, dreams were extremely important in understanding and eliminating internal conflicts. Freud’s psychoanalysis is not used as commonly today, instead a new and improved form of psychoanalysis called, Brief Psychodynamic Therapy is used. This therapy involves asking patients direct questions to uncover their true feelings and the conflicts they may be having. This therapy helps patients recover faster and helps them to find the heart of the problem much quicker.[3].

Humanistic Therapies[change | change source]

Humanistic Therapies are very optimistic which are designed to help patients get a deeper insight into their thoughts, feelings, and behavior.[3]. They encourage patients to think positively and create a positive self-image. Carl Rogers (1902-1987), a psychotherapist has been credited with the development of Client-Centered Therapy. This therapy technique encourages the client to determine what will be discussed during the therapy instead of the therapist. This therapy involves the patient actively solving his/her own problems while the therapist creates opportunities for the patient to bring forth changes. During the therapy session, the therapist is not allowed to judge or disagree with the patient; instead he’s only allowed to provide unconditional positive regard. Accepting the patients as they are is the first step to client-centered therapy. Rogers argued that if a person has a “realistic self-image and a greater self-acceptance”, he/she will automatically be capable of solving their own problems.[3].

Another Humanistic therapy includes Gestalt Therapy, which helps patients rebuild their damaged thinking, feelings, and behavior. This is achieved by taking full responsibility for one’s actions and behaviors and by becoming increasing personal awareness.[3]. The Gestalt therapy involves working one on one with the patient and encouraging them to become more aware of their thoughts and feelings. The patients should be aware of their every thought and every action. Clients are encouraged to experience the present and their every feeling because according to Gestalt therapists, knowing who you are internally is the best way to bring forth changes.[3].

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy[change | change source]

Cognitive therapy involves a technique that helps patients change their thinking patterns that lead to troubled actions and behavior. Cognitive therapy has been successful for many disorders including anxiety disorder to treating post-traumatic stress disorder. Cognitive therapy has been proven to be most successful in treating patients suffering from depression. Eliminating negative aspects from thinking seems to cure many patients from depression. Cognitive therapists provide very detailed procedures for their patients that help them eliminate negative thoughts that lead to problems like depressions.[3]. Cognitive therapy is becoming very popular because it has been proven to be as much effective as antidepressants in treating those suffering from depression.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Barlow, David H. (February 3, 2011). Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach. California: Wadsworth Publishing. ISBN 978-0880488105. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  2. "Discovering Trepanation: The Contribution of Paul Broca" (PDF). Retrieved November 21, 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Coon, D., & Mitterer , J. O. (2010). Therapies . In D. Coon, & J. O. Mitterer, Introduction to Psychology - Gateways to Mind and Behavior (p. 512). Belmont: Wadsworth Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Therapies" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Therapies" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Therapies" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Therapies" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Therapies" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Therapies" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Therapies" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Therapies" defined multiple times with different content
  4. 4.0 4.1 Kardas, E. P. (2013). Personality & Psychopathology. In E. P. Kardas, History of Psychology - The Making of a Science (p. 366). Belmont: Wadsworth
  5. Dechant, Arista B. (2009). "The Psychology of Criminal Behavior: Theories from the Past and Present". Coastline Journal. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  6. Menaster, Michael; Bienenfeld, David (April 12, 2012). "Psychiatric Disorders Associated With Criminals Behavior". Medscape. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  7. First, Michael B.; Gibbon, Miriam; Spitzer, Robert L.; Williams, Janet B. W.; Benjamin, Lorna Smith (August 1997). User's Guide for the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis II personality disorders: SCID-II. Virginia: American Psychiatric Publishing. ISBN 0-888048-810-7 Check |isbn= value: length (help). Retrieved November 23,2013. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  8. "On Being Sane In Insane Places" (PDF). Retrieved November 21, 2013.

Barlow, David H. (February 3, 2011). Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach. California: Wadsworth Publishing. ISBN 978-0880488105. |access-date= requires |url= (help)

"Antisocial Personality Disorder" (PDF). Retrieved November 23, 2013.

"Discovering Trepanation: The Contribution of Paul Broca" (PDF). Retrieved November 21, 2013.

"On Being Sane In Insane Places" (PDF). Retrieved November 21, 2013.

First, Michael B.; Gibbon, Miriam; Spitzer, Robert L.; Williams, Janet B. W.; Benjamin, Lorna Smith (August 1997). User's Guide for the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis II personality disorders: SCID-II. Virginia: American Psychiatric Publishing. ISBN 0-888048-810-7 Check |isbn= value: length (help). Retrieved November 23,2013. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)

Menaster, Michael; Bienenfeld, David (April 12, 2012). "Psychiatric Disorders Associated With Criminals Behavior". Medscape. Retrieved December 5, 2013.

Dechant, Arista B. (2009). "The Psychology of Criminal Behavior: Theories from the Past and Present". Coastline Journal. Retrieved December 5, 2013.