Abnormal psychology is a scientific investigation of abnormal behavior in order to help analyze, anticipate, interpret, and modify abnormal patterns of functioning (Damour & Hansell, 2008). It examines the nature of psychopathology as well as its reasons and treatments. Certainly, the definition of what concludes abnormal has evolved with time and across cultures. People also differ in what they consider normal or abnormal behavior. For instance, what is considered abnormal by some people can be normal by others.
Generally, abnormal psychology can be described as an area of psychology that studies people who are defined as the psychology field that analyzes people who are permanently unable to adjust and behave efficiently in a diversity of conditions (Butcher, Mineka, & Hooley, 2010).
The following information provides a brief history and origin of abnormal psychology, how it developed into a scientific discipline, and the application of biological, psychological, and socio-cultural theoretic patterns of psychopathology.
Origins of Abnormal Psychology. The recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of the mentally ill have changed significantly over time and through different cultures.
For centuries, a person who was diagnosed as mentally ill were sent to asylums and patients were often mistreated and abused. Today a person with a mental illness is not necessarily insane and treated with compassion and understanding and provided treatment to work toward a “normal” existence (Damour & Hansell, 2008). In ancient societies people ascribed abnormal behavior to the impact of the evil spirits and the exorcism carried out by priests and shamans has been used to oust out invading spirits.
The history of abnormal psychology likely has origins in the work of Hippocrates, who is considered as a medical precursor. Hippocrates believed that balance of four fluids (blood, phlegm, black and yellow bile), which are considered humors of a body, is essential to one’s mental and general health (Stocker, 2010). Likewise, he was the first who looked at abnormality from a biological side as well as he believed that people who are mentally ill deserved to be managed respectfully but not as people of questionable value.
Hippocrates initially suggested the perspective, which granted origin to what in contemporary approach to abnormal psychology and from these primitive foundations the journey toward understanding abnormal behavior has begun (Rosenhan & Seligman, 1995). Not so many years ago, abnormal psychology was considered to be very little explored field. Notwithstanding that changed a lot in the past years and now psychopathology is highly advanced. Abnormal psychology has developed into a scientific subject as a result of technological advances such as biochemistry as well as psychopathology.
Stocker (2010) mentions in his text that the most significant events in the development of abnormal psychology are Sigmund Freud’s first comprehensive theory of psychopathology in 1896, which concluded psychosocial fundamentals of hysterics; the first clinic of psychology opened at the University of Pennsylvania in 1892. Furthermore, APA (American Psychological Associate) was put together by G. S. Hall in the same year and later, in 1952 the first diagnostic manual for mental disorders (DSM-I) was released.
Consequently, with Freud’s theory of psychopathology accredited, the first psychological clinic founded, the APA made up and the DSM-I published, the field of abnormal psychology has begun to develop into a scientific discipline. Theoretical Models of Abnormal Psychology The study of abnormal psychology follows three theoretical models. The models are used in the theoretical approach and identification for treatment of abnormal behavior. The models include the psychosocial, biological, and sociocultural models.
Each model provides different assumptions and concepts with each focusing mainly on one aspect of human functioning. Not one model alone can explain all aspects of abnormal behavior. Mental health professionals assess a patient using the three models in conjunction because problems with abnormal behavior are seldom limited to one domain of human experience. Biological Model The biological theoretical model applies an understanding of the construction of the human body and brain as it relates to psychology.
The application of the biological model is the sole focus on physical components of human psychology and attempts to explain abnormal psychology in material terms. Physical components that apply through biology include physical injury, disease, neurochemical disturbances, hormone imbalances, and genetic abnormalities (Butcher, Mineka, & Hooley, 2010). Biological model is based on approach that a person’s physical health is the foundation to which one’s mental health rests. However, this model offers a limited explanation of abnormal behavior, since social factors have a large impact on physical goings-on.
Psychosocial Model. Erik Erikson was the first psychologist who presented a theory for the psychological development, which took into account the presence of dysfunction. The psychosocial model is the focus of a person’s individual interaction with his or her environment. The psychosocial model includes the study of stress triggers in aberrant or self-destructive behavior (Rosenham & Seligman, 1995). The psychosocial viewpoints of causes of mental illness stem from early deprivation or trauma from institutionalization, deprivation and abuse in the home, childhood trauma, inadequate parenting, or maladaptive peer relationships.
According to Erikson, the psychosocial model helps to explain the inability to make up a person’s mind and the stage of development (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). There are eight stages to a healthy or impaired development to occur and according to Erikson each stage must be met before the next one. If any of the stages is completed unsuccessfully, it is a possibility that abnormal psychology may become an issue. Sociocultural Model The sociocultural model is built upon social and cultural pressures, stresses, and ideas on personality development.
The sociocultural model strongly emphasizes on the influence of society and culture on one’s development as well as on abnormal behavior. For instance, some socio-cultural psychologists have highlighted that poverty, discrimination, and lack of employment induce the efficiency of criminal behavior. Moreover, the sociocultural model is the application of how relationships and other social processes help people to develop an appreciation for the social systems in which they live (Feist & Feist, 2006).
Abnormal behavior is best understood through social and cultural forces that influence an individual according to the socio-cultural model. Overall, the socio-cultural model adds context and causality to the discussion of abnormal psychology. Conclusion In conclusion, abnormality and the explanations of it are seen even in Hippocrates time. Later, Freud’s comprehensive theory of personality development including an approach on dysfunction along with the first clinic of psychology and the establishment of the APA leading to release of the DSM-I helped mold the field of abnormal psychology into a scientific discipline.
Additionally, the biological model involves the physical occurrences, which relate to and predispose psychopathology. The psychosocial model focuses on mental disorders as the instability of the stages of personality development, as suggested by Erikson. Finally, the sociocultural model interprets the cultural and social influence on abnormal behavior and psychopathology (Stocker, 2010).