Abnormal psychology in clinical psychology studies the nature of psychopathology, its causes, and its treatments. Of course, the definition of what constitutes ‘abnormal’ has varied across time and across cultures. Individuals also vary in what they regard as normal or abnormal behavior. In general, abnormal psychology can be described as an area of psychology that studies people who are consistently unable to adapt and function effectively in a variety of conditions.
The four main contributing factors to how well an individual is able to adapt include their genetic makeup, physical condition, learning and reasoning, and socialization.
HistoryThe history of how abnormal psychology, began with the research of the famous ancient Greek philosopher Plato in the fourth century B. C. During his time most believed that the strange behaviors and actions that psychologists study today were caused by evil spirits. Plato believed this to be false and spoke his ideas of these behaviors being caused by a “natural madness, usually caused by a disease”.
Unfortunately his words had no affect on the common people of his age. During the Dark Ages, the idea of the behaviors being caused by evil spirits escalated to the idea that people were being possessed by demons. Many people were exorcised by the churches or burned at the stake for possessing these “demons”. Over approximately one hundred thousand innocent people were killed for the same reasons by the Inquisition. It wasn’t until early 19th century that the idea of evil spirits and demons was tossed aside, and the idea of these behaviors being caused by illnesses in the mind was finally embraced.
Modern concepts of abnormality * Statistical abnormality – when a certain behaviour/characteristic is relevant to a low percentage of the population. However, this does not necessarily mean that such individuals are suffering from mental illness (for example, statistical abnormalities such as extreme wealth/attractiveness) * Psychometric abnormality – when a certain behaviour/characteristic differs from the population’s normal dispersion e. g. having an IQ of 35 could be classified as abnormal, as the population average is 100.
However, this does not specify a particular mental illness. * Deviant behaviour – this is not always a sign of mental illness, as it can occur without deviant behaviour, and such behaviour may occur in the absence of mental illness. * Combinations – including distress, dysfunction, distorted psychological processes, inappropriate responses in given situations and causing/risking harm to oneself. .Approaches * Somatogenic – abnormality is seen as a result of biological disorders in the brain (Kraeplin, 1883).
However, this approach has led to the development of radical biological treatments e. g. lobotomy. * Psychogenic – abnormality is caused by psychological problems. This has led to slightly bizarre treatments. Mesmer used to put his patients in a darkened room with music playing, then entered wearing a flamboyant outfit and pressed the ‘infected’ body areas with a stick. It has also led to the development of hypnosis, psychoanalysis (Freud) and carthasis as psychological treatments, as well as humanism (Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow).