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Psychology AS Psychopathology lesson 7

The four approaches to psychopathology/abnormality: behavioural, biological, cognitive and psychodynamic.

Amanda Lane

on 18 June 2013

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Transcript of Psychology AS Psychopathology lesson 7

What is it?
Definition 1
Deviation from social norms.
The term 'deviation' in this definition refers to deviant behaviour- behaviour that is considered to be anti-social or undesirable by the majority of society.
Social standards are not restricted to rules of convention but also more serious than moral issues, such as what is acceptable in sexual behaviour.
Our culture permit intercourse between consenting adults of any gender but regards some other behaviours as sexually deviant. For example, in the past homosexuality was classed as deviant behaviour in the UK (but not nowadays).
Currently the DSM classification scheme contains a category called 'sexual and gender identity disorders' which includes paedophilia and voyeurism. These such behaviours are considered socially deviant.
Social deviancy differs from environment to environment. Whilst some behaviours may be considered deviant in one society they may not be considered deviant in another.
The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual.
This is a list of mental disorders which is used to diagnose mental disorders.
DSM-IV-TR is the current version used in the US.
In Britain clinicians use ICD, the Internal Classification of Diseases and Health Related problems.
ICD-10 is the current version used.
Definition 2
Failure to function adequately.
From an individuals point of view, abnormality can be judged in terms of not being able to cope.
For example, if you are feeling depressed, this can be coped with as long as you can continue to go to work, eat, get dressed, and generally go about day-to-day living.
As soon as depression, or any other disorder, interupts or interferes with such things then the individual might tend to label their own behaviour 'abnormal', and would then perhaps seek treatment.
Definition 3
Deviation from ideal mental health.
Marie Jahoda (1958) stated that we define physical illness in part by looking at the absence of signs of physical health.
Physical health is defined by having the correct body temperature, normal skin colour, normal blood pressure etc., the absence of these indicates illness.
Why not do the same for mental illness?
Jahoda devised a review of what others had written about mental health and identified six categories that were commonly referred to:
Having high self-esteem and a strong sense of identity.
Personal growth and self-actualisation
The extent to which an individual develops to their full capabilities.
Being able to cope with stressful situations
Being independent and self-regulating
Accurate perception of reality
Mastery of the environment
Including the ability to love, function at work and in interpersonal relations, adjust to new situations and solve problems.
This model proposes that the absence of these criteria indicates abnormality, and potential mental disorder.
The Biological Approach
The biological model assumes that psychological disorders are physical illnesses with physical causes.
This model suggests that they are no different to physical illnesses, other than they have major psychological symptoms.
When the same symptoms occur frequently together they can represent a reliable disorder or syndrome.
The cause of a syndrome or disorder may be one or more of the following:
Faulty genes are known to cause some diseases that have psychological effects, e.g. the hereditary Huntingdon’s disease that leads to a deterioration of the brain.
Too little or too much of a particular neurotransmitter may produce psychological disorders, e.g. increased levels of dopamine is linked to schizophrenia.
Disorders may be caused by infection. For example, general paresis is a condition involving delusions and mood swings, leading paralysis and death. It is caused by syphilis, which can now be treated.
Accidental brain damage may produce psychological disorders. E.g. in 1848 an explosion sent an iron rod through Phineas Gage’s head. The injury was that parts of his frontal lobes were destroyed. He survived, but since the accident he became more impulsive, disorganised, and had a strangely different personality.
Biological disorders
can be treated
with biological therapies.
The biological model says that once the physical cause of a psychological disorder has been identified, a physical (biological) therapy is needed to treat the physical problem.
One or more of the following may be used:
Drugs can be used to change the neurotransmitter levels in the brain.
Psychosurgery is brain surgery involving destruction/separation of parts of the brain. In the 1930’s the frontal lobotomy was developed to separate parts of the frontal lobes from the rest of the brain. This reduced aggression and generally made people more placid. However, it is not a cure, but a change- the irreversible changes to personality may have just made patients easier to manage. Psychosurgery is now only a last resort treatment for some disorders, e.g. serious depression.
During electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), an electric shock of around 225 volts is given to a person’s brain. This can help to relieve depression, but can also produce memory loss. Although quite commonly used in the past, it’s now only used as a last-resort therapy.
This model has a scientific basis in biology and a lot of evidence shows that biological causes can produce psychological symptoms.
It can be seen as ethical because people are not blamed for their disorders. They just have an illness.
Biological therapies have helped relieve conditions that could not be treated very well previously (e.g. schizophrenia).
Biological therapies raise ethical concerns. Drugs can produce addiction and may only suppress symptoms rather than cure the disorder. The effects of psychosurgery are irreversible.
Psychological disorders may not be linked to any physical problem. Psychological therapies can be just as effective as biological treatments, without any interference to biological structures.
The Strengths and Weaknesses
of the Biological Model of Abnormality
The Psychodynamic Approach
The term psychodynamic refers to any approach that emphasises the dynamics of behaviour. As the individual is constantly changing and developing, so do the underlying drives of their behaviour.
Psychodynamic theorists focus mostly on past experiences, notably parent-child relationships, because they believe that the majority of psychological conflicts are rooted in these relationships.
The best known of the psychodynamic theories of abnormality is Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis. Freud believed that unconscious forces determined all normal and abnormal behaviour.
Freud suggested that personality developed out of an interaction between innate drives and early-life experiences.
At birth the personality is ruled by the id (this can stand for instincts and desires). The id is driven by the pleasure principle- to seek immediate satisfaction.
By the end of the infants first year, the ego develops as a consequence of experience with reality. The ego is driven by the reality principle, which makes the child acclimatise to the demands of the environment.
Around the age 5, the superego emerges (this can compared to the adult or parent in you). The superego embodies our conscience and sense of right and wrong.
These three ‘personality structures’ are not intended to be real things but to represent aspects of self and motivation.
Freud’s Theory of Personality
Personality Structures
Ego Defences
The ego mediates between the id and superego, coping with conflicting demands.
Throughout life the id, ego and superego are always in conflict with each other because they represent different motives- pleasure, reality and ideal behaviour.
The conflicts cause the individual to experience anxiety. To try and reduce the anxiety the ego uses ‘defence mechanisms’, such as repression, denial, displacement, regression, and intellectualisation. These ego-defences are unconscious and are a key dynamic of the personality.
Psychodynamic theorists believe that mental disorders results from psychological rather than physical cause.
Basic Principles
Early experiences can cause mental disorder.In childhood the ego is not developed enough to deal with traumas; therefore they are repressed. For example, a child may experience the death of a parent early in life and repress associated feelings. Later in life, other losses may cause the individual to re-experience the earlier loss and can lead to depression. Previously unexpressed anger about a loss is directed inwards towards the self, causing depression.
Unconscious motivations can cause mental disorder.
Ego defences, such as repression and regression, exert pressure through unconsciously motivated behaviour. Freud suggested that the unconscious consists of memories and other information that are either very hard or almost impossible to bring into conscious awareness.

Despite this, the unconscious mind exerts a powerful effect on behaviour. This frequently leads to distress, as the person does not understand why they are acting in that particular way. The underlying problem cannot be controlled until brought into conscious awareness.
Abstract concepts such as id, ego and superego are difficult define and research. Because actions motivated by them operate primarily at an unconscious level, there is no way to fully know for certain that they are occurring.
As a result psychodynamic explanations have received limited empirical support, and psychodynamic theorists have had to rely largely on evidence from individual case studies.
A common criticism of Freud and his work is that it was sexist.
Freud’s theory was undoubtedly sexually unbalanced, and he himself accepted that his theory was less well developed for women. This is not surprising given that Freud was raised in a Victorian culturally based society (when and where women weren’t considered to be equal).
Although a number of researchers have attempted to test Freud’s predictions experimentally, the theory is difficult to prove or disprove.
If an individual behaves in a manner predicted by Freud, this is considered to be supportive of the theory. However, if they do not, the theory is not rejected as it could instead indicate that the person is behaving in this way as a consequence of their defense mechanisms.
Unresolved conflicts can cause mental disorder.
Conflicts between the id, ego and superego create anxiety. The ego protects itself with various defence mechanisms. These defences can be the cause of disturbed behaviour if they are overused.
The Behavioural Approach
Behaviourists believe that our actions are determined mostly by the experiences we have in life, rather than by underlying pathology or unconscious forces.
Abnormality is seen as the development of behaviour patterns that are considered to be maladaptive for the individual. Most learned behaviours are adaptive, they help people to lead productive and happy lives. However, maladaptive behaviours can also be learned in the same way.
When determining treatment for abnormal behaviour, behaviourist believe that they need only concern themselves with the person’s actions (there is no need to search the mind or analyse the thoughts and feelings of this person). As you can see, this is a direct contrast to the psychodynamic approach to abnormality.
Learning Theory
An example of classical conditioning-
Ivan Pavlov's research on salivation in dogs.
Food is an
unconditioned stimulus (US) and salivation is an unconditioned response (UR).
No learning is required for this stimulus-response (S-R) link,
which is why both stimulus and response are described as ‘unconditional’.
The sound of the door opening is a neutral stimulus (NS). There is no inborn reflex response to hearing a door open.
If an NS and a US occur together repeatedly they become associated, until eventually the NS also causes the UR.
Now the NS is called a conditioned stimulus (CS) and the UR becomes a conditioned response (CR) to this- the CS will produce the CR.
A new stimulus-response (S-R) link has been learned.
An example of operant conditioning.
B.F Skinner’s research on rats.
Learning will result when we are rewarded.
Positive reinforcement is pleasurable and increases the likelihood of a behaviour occurring again.
Negative reinforcement is where we avoid an unpleasant stimulus. This is also pleasurable and also increases the likelihood of a behaviour occurring.
Psychological disorders are developed when a maladaptive behaviour is rewarded.
This means that such behaviours may be functional for the individual, at least at the time they are learned.
Social Learning (vicarious conditioning)- behaviours can also be learned by seeing others rewarded and punished. An individual’s social context is important when considering the origins of abnormal behaviours; it provides many opportunities for behaviours to be observed and imitated.
The Cognitive Approach
The cognitive approach assumes that the mind is like a computer - that processes information.
This approach also assumes that problems arise in the way an individual thinks about their environment around them.
The cognitive model of abnormality emphasises that cognitive distortions and deficiencies may be the root of many psychological disorders.
Cognitive distortions can be summarised as follows:
Cognitive structures
These refer to the internal organisation of information. For example, most of us think of dogs and cats as pet that are a source of friendship etc. whereas other people can be afraid of dogs or cats and they view them as one single thing; objects of fear.
Cognitive Content
This is the actual material that the person is processing. We may focus our attention on the negative aspects of a situation 'I know I'm going to fail' or the positive aspects 'I will survive'.
Good ol' Gloria Gaynor!
Cognitive Processes
These are the ways in which we take action on these pieces of information. Anxious people process information differently from those who are less anxious. For example, a woman may overhear someone say at work: 'She really gets on my nerves'. This statement could apply to anyone, but she is convinced that they are talking about her - this is an example of irrational thinking.
Cognitive Products
These are the conclusions that people reach when they have processed this material. In the recent example, the person may conclude that she isn't very well liked or accepted, a conclusion that may be based on faulty processing.
Cognitive psychologists therefore explain abnormality in terms of irrational and negative thinking.
Distortions in the way we process information have been implicated in depression, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders.
Brain injury
Freud believed that the origins of mental disorder lie in the unresolved conflicts of childhood which are unconscious. Medical illnesses are not the outcome of physical disorder but these psychological conflicts.
Lesson Objective:
To understand that different approaches offer different explanations into explaining abnormality and in turn how to treat it.
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