Sunday, December 8, 2013

Historical Perspectives of Abnormal Psychology

          Abnormal psychology or psychopathology is a fascinating and at times controversial area of study, which has a devotion of studying mental disorders. To have a comprehensive understand of abnormal psychology one must examine its origins, understand the definitions and classifications of normal and abnormal behavior, the evolution of it into a scientific discipline, and theoretical models related to abnormal psychology’s development.
Abnormal Psychology’s Origins
          Tremendous change, controversy, and advancement have been the experience of abnormal psychology through its existence of nearly 100 years as an area of study. The development of beliefs changed from superstition beliefs to beliefs based on scientific awareness. Therefore, the focus changed from explanations based on the supernatural to the knowledge of natural causes. The evolution of this course at times has been through distinctive periods of unique or advanced contributions of individuals, followed by periods of nonproductive or inactive backward steps.
Challenges to Defining and Classifying Normal and Abnormal Behavior
          To assist in the challenge to define and classify normal and abnormal behavior the creation of six core concepts occurred in abnormal psychology. The importance of context concept is to understand the context whereas behavior that is abnormal behavior occurs requires three crucial reasons of consideration. One reason is to understand circumstances surrounding behavior is necessary to define if such behavior is abnormal or not. Another reason is the context in which abnormality occurs can assist one in understanding and explaining it. The last reason is the profound influence that demographic context categories, which include age, culture, gender, class have on abnormal behavior. The normal and abnormal continuum concept is if the context makes the suggestion that behavior is abnormal one cannot define behavior abnormal without a consideration of the normal and abnormal continuum.
          Several forms of abnormality are an exaggeration of normal behavior and feelings. Therefore, this continuum is a means of taking into account for mental disorders and a means of highlighting the appropriate possession of an empathic attitude toward individuals who suffer from mental disorders. It is also a means of making abnormality more understandable because the potential for behavior that is abnormal is a part of common humanity (Hansell & Damour, 2008).  However, this continuum makes it difficult for clinicians and researchers to find a dividing line between behavior deemed either normal or abnormal; therefore, this creates a challenge for scientific research in relation to psychopathology and treatment (Hansell & Damour, 2008).
          The cultural and historical relativism concept makes note that definitions of abnormal behavior differ widely among different cultures. Therefore, because of this fact one cannot make definite universal notions concerning what defines abnormal behavior. The advantages and limitations of diagnosis concept makes note that researchers and clinicians benefit from diagnostic categories in order for studying and treating mental illness, and for communication with other researchers and clinicians. However, abnormal psychology struggles in the development of valid diagnostic categories to classify mental disorders with accuracy and consistence because of abnormal behavior’s complexity. This poses a challenge for psychologist to agree upon the same diagnoses of a patient but even if he or she had an agreement of diagnoses it may not be correct. Therefore, classification systems have to be reasonably valid and reliable.
          The concept of multiple causality principle draws attention to the complexity of abnormal behavior because it is important to not oversimplify the causes of such behavior. Therefore, it is important to have varying theoretical perspectives that coexist in abnormal psychology. Abnormal psychology can move increasingly toward more effective means of treatments and explanations through combining components of varying theories (Hansell & Damour, 2008). The mind and body connection concept makes note that the connection between the mind and body needs examination to offer explanations and treatments for abnormal behavior. These six core concepts are a reminder that abnormal psychology’s focus involves studying disorders and diagnoses of disorders, and the field’s main concerns are individuals and ideas (Hansell & Damour, 2008).
Abnormal Psychology’s Evolution into a Scientific Discipline
           The Greek physician Hippocrates was the first individual to develop a scientific or biological explanation of abnormal behavior for mental disorders. He insisted that mental disorders occurred because of natural causes and could be appropriately treated. Hippocrates’ belief was that the brain was the organ central to intellectual activity and that mental disorders were a result of brain pathology (Sue, Sue, & Sue, 2010). Although Hippocrates did not develop the first theory of abnormal psychology, but he did help influence and further the study of mental disorders. Abnormal psychology’s first comprehensive theory was Freud’s psychodynamic theory (Hansell & Damour, 2008). He developed this theory through his interest and attraction of hypnosis as a treatment of hysteria and the case study of “Anna O.” Freud’s theory is still an influential approach for explaining and treating mental disorders, which furthered the evolution of abnormal psychology as a scientific discipline because other researchers, clinicians, and psychologist either opposed Freud’s theory or further his work through the development of new theories in abnormal psychology to further its progress.
Theoretical Models related to Abnormal Psychology’s Development
          Abnormal psychology is one scientific field different from certain other scientific fields for one reason. That reason is that it has several developed theoretical perspectives or models that share a close existence with one another. These theoretical perspectives or models include the psychosocial, biological/medical, and sociocultural models. Psychosocial models are a means of focusing on how one accommodates for internal conflicts of unconscious and conscious processes when interaction occurs with the environment. Of emphases are the importance of immediate environments, social relationships, concerns, memories, and internal conflicts in relation to one’s behavior. The biological/medical models focus on biochemical functions and physical structures of one’s body that contribute to behavior, which is abnormal. Biological/medical models are also a study of the brain’s function and structure as they relate to mental disorders. Sociocultural models are a means of focusing on the contribution of cultural, familial, and social environments toward mental disorders. The emphasis of these models is on social forces, which shape abnormal and normal behavior (Hansell & Damour, 2008).
          Abnormal psychology is an area of study that still remains fascinating and controversial. To grasp a better understanding of abnormal psychology one should learn of its origins and challenges in defining and classifying normal and abnormal behavior. The six core concepts serve the purpose for reminding one that abnormal psychology is a science with the intention of influencing and assisting individuals, even though the study of disorders and clarification of diagnoses is an equally important factor. Different theoretical models emphasize the importance of varying therapeutic perspectives or models that promote a valid and accurate understanding of abnormal behavior.  
Hansell, J., & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Sue, D., Sue, D. W., & Sue, S. (2010). Understanding Abnormal Behavior (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth.

1 comment:

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