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Psychology AS Psychopathology lesson 2

The Biological approach to Psychopathology

Amanda Lane

on 19 March 2014

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Transcript of Psychology AS Psychopathology lesson 2

The biological approach to psychopathology
'Abnormality as illness or disease'
There are 4 different types of medical explanations that can be used to explain the cause of abnormal behaviour
The biological approach to psychopathology sees mental disorders as being caused by an abnormality in the physiological processes such as genetic or biochemical factors
Micro organisms such as bacteria or viruses are known to produce disease. Some mental illnesses are caused this way (i.e. general paresis).
Micro-organisms have also been suggested as a cause of schizophrenia .
Barret et Al (1990) found that there was an increased incidence of schizophrenia in children whose mothers had the flu during pregnancy.
Individuals may inherit predispositions to certain illnesses, which are carried through genes. One way of looking at the inheritance of mental illnesses is by studying identical twins.
Kendler et al (1985) found that relatives of schizophrenics were 18 times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Specific genes may be associated with particular illnesses. Gottesman (1991): Carried out a meta-analysis of approx 40 twin studies. It was found that having an identical twin with schizophrenia gave you a 48% chance of developing the condition. This reduced to 17% in non identical twins
Gene – mapping studies
To operate properly, the brain relies on hundreds of different chemicals all being in the correct balance. These chemicals (neurotransmitters and hormones) are used to send messages round the brain and nervous system, so too much or too little of any of them can cause the brain to function abnormally.
Chemical messengers that allow neurones to communicate with one another at synapses (the gap between the end terminal of one neurone and the membrane of the dendrites or cell body of the next).
Parkinson's disease is caused by the death of dopamine producing cells. Addiction is linked to the reward pathways that use dopamine as a neurotransmitter.
Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Hormones are chemical messengers that are secreted into the bloodstream by glands and control various body functions including some nervous system functions.
Chronic stress involves high levels of cortisol being produced by the adrenal cortex
Caused by syphilis!
Brain Damage
Alzheimer's Disease
A type of dementia caused by the malformation and loss of cells in the brain
Evaluating the biological model of abnormality

Biological processes are assumed to be beyond a patient’s control, and so patients they are not blamed for their predicament or behaviour.
Plenty of studies have found that psychological disturbance is associated with biological changes (e.g. of neurotransmitters & hormones), however it is often impossible to tell whether such changes are a cause or an effect of the psychological symptoms. For example, patients with schizophrenia have enlarged ventricles in the brain, but it is not possible to say whether the ventricular enlargement is a causative factor in schizophrenia, or if it is a product of the disease.
Research evidence
The biological model has led to the development of drug therapies that are often effective in controlling psychological symptoms, for example antidepressant drugs effectively treat depression and antipsychotic drugs can control schizophrenia. However when drugs are discontinued, symptoms often return, suggesting the actual cause of the abnormality may not be purely biological. Drugs are good at quickly treating the symptoms of a disorder, but they are less effective at treating the actual cause of the disorder.
The use of drugs to treat abnormal behaviour
The biological model offers people a role and treatments they are familiar with, and are often happy to go along with, for example it is easy to trust a doctor and easy to take the medications prescribed. However it encourages them to become passive and dependent and to hand over control of their lives to the expert. Therefore, instead of taking responsibility for the disorder and attempting to tackle the psychological cause, patients simply trust the treatment they are prescribed and expect it to cure them. A positive effect of this however may be that there is less social stigma toward a psychological disorder that is viewed as biological in origin as people tend to accept the patient cannot help being that way.
The role of the patient
Blame and stigma
Lesson Objective:
To explore and evaluate the effectiveness of the biological approach to explaining abnormality
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